I remember him, still. Bright brown eyes, big inviting smile… Even through that familiar face of uncertainty, he managed to brighten everyone’s tormenting day at work. He’s been coming over to do some tests for his upcoming kidney surgery. Often with two or three people with him, friends and family I would guess, all wanting to be his donors. It was still like yesterday when he had to come back twice in one day for a retest. I told him, “See, if you sneak in and out like that without saying Hi to us then for sure you will be called back same day.” I He laughed. Since then, he never missed popping in the window just to say hello whenever he is around. So, it was all good news when he came one day stating that they found a match through his friend. They then became frequent visitors, coming to do further testings two or three times a week.
After months of preparation, I saw him on a Monday in a wheel chair. Just like the others, I know then that he just went through the transplant maybe three days ago. I called his name… looking at him, making sure he is just fine. With his immunocompromised situation, I understood why he had to use a mask. Yet, I saw him smile behind the white thin cloth that covered the whole of his nose and mouth. This person, I thought, despite of his fragile appearance and slightly pale skin, still looked better than anyone of us working there. We were a mess. I briefly scanned through the room and I saw faceless robots, my co-workers doing what they are programmed to do. Don’t get me wrong, believe me when I say that I haven’t seen anyone as excellent as these phlebotomists. They are the greatest, that’s why patients come from the farthest cities not withstanding the distance. It was because of the service that they are being provided… the kind of care that they are used to receiving.
He, I will not say his name due to my sworn pledge on protecting patient’s privacy, has been one of our favorites. Maybe because of that warmth that radiates when he was present. Perhaps, because of his smile that just lightens up the room. Probably, because of his bright eyes that is a mirror of happiness. Or maybe, just because of his personality and positive outlook… things about him that are contagious leaving us bewildered every time. I always see him with his book, patiently waiting for his turn. Never did I hear him complain, he was always understanding even if he had to wait longer than expected. I sometimes wish I have that virtue of patience and that lust for life, that courage to face everyday challenges and that gift to be a social person.
November 2010 came and he didn’t show up that same Monday for his appointment. He missed Tuesday, then the next day after… When he missed two weeks in a row, we knew then he is no longer coming, that maybe, he found a closer place to have his testings done. Life went on…patients came, patients left. New surgery patients, new transplant patients… new faces, new names. The new year approached and I got a new job. One of the most difficult thing I have done is leaving where I felt at home, together with friends I met and come to work with closely. I cried on my last day knowing I might not be able to see them again… I started thinking of the patients that touched my heart, the people that made me reflect on life, the innocence I have seen on the eyes of children. I was sad… but I had to go carrying with me keepsakes, taking with me a beautiful tokens of friendship.
Then, last night came like a thief snatching away a good piece of memory. My favorite patient walking out with the brightest smile is now slowly crumbling before my very eye. Then I saw the pain that he was hiding all this time, and being human, he is like everyone… subject to physical suffering. And to Death. November 4, last year was when he passed away. As I read from his wife’s tribute, “His car drifting on the carpool lane, bumping into guard rails before stopping.” He was there sitting, as she wrote, peaceful and calm. “It’s almost as if he was lifted, as if he was gently taken from all of us that day. Exactly the way our J deserved to go. Without pain, without suffering and without harm to a soul.”
Yes, it was his time to go then. I can, still, see him waving goodbye as he vanished through the doors. His laughter echoing through the walls. He lived his life well with all the goodness he shared, with his wife, his family and the kids he was teaching. One thing is sure in my thoughts, his memories will continue to linger NOT only as an inspiration but also a lesson that Life, no matter how we are challenged by it’s humanity, is and will always be beautiful…