“I am afraid we can’t meet his needs...” I lamented. I clutched the receiver to my ear, wishing that the hospital social worker on the other side of the line could sense my frustration, flowing through the telephone line like a river of regret.
“You can try an interpreter,” the social worker insisted.
“He is too weak. He won’t be able to communicate with an interpreter.” I sighed as thoughts raced in my mind, struggling with the decision of whether to take Mr. Alexander under our care.
Communication was the challenge, as Mr. Alexander was deaf and illiterate.
Hospitalized for several weeks, Mr. Alexander had suffered a significant decline in his medical condition. His prognosis was very poor. In the hospital, he had made clear to the doctors and medical staff that he did not want aggressive treatment or intervention to prolong his life. He had previously made his wishes known through an interpreter.
He had become very frail. The hospital couldn’t do much for him in his condition. He had no family or friends. He needed the expertise of a long-term care facility.
After asking the social worker to give us some time to discuss the case, I sank into my chair, placed my elbows on my desk and rested my face in my hands. My mind was in a whirl of thoughts about Mr. Alexander and his unfortunate situation.
A strange feeling, an impromptu decision, rushed me out of my office.
I need to go to the hospital!
I walked into the hospital. Uncertainty flooded my mind, yet I knew I had to see Mr. Alexander. I walked the long, polished floor of the hallway until I spotted his room. I knocked at the door, as is customary.
A slender man in his late seventies was laying in a bed. He looked worn out, his gazed fixed on the ceiling—like if his mind was away, far away from that place. I stood by his bed. I tilted my head, to his eye level. He looked up, staring at me. Behind those round hazel eyes I perceived a mix of sad and endearing feelings.
I smiled at him. He smiled back, for one brief moment.
I touched his hand. A feeling of compassion enveloped me. I held his hand in both of mine. His frail fingers attempted to grasp hands, but he was so debilitated that his hand dropped almost motionless on the bed. He glanced at me again, then he shut his eyes, and went to sleep.
Neither words nor an interpreter were needed to communicate between us. I knew what he wanted—and needed. He wanted caring hands to help him in his last journey—in this world.
Now my decision to help him was resolute.
Mr. Alexander arrived to our facility that same day, late in the afternoon. I went to his room before I left for the day. I glanced at him. He was sleeping. I was relieved that he appeared peaceful. And I felt peaceful as well—or so I thought.
That night, I woke a few times, thinking of Mr. Alexander. I don’t normally experience work induced restless nights. I try to disengage from work when I get home.
But that night—that particular night—seemed out of the ordinary.
I tried to relax with the thought that Mr. Alexander was being well-taken care of. I finally went to sleep for a few hours.
The next morning I got up earlier than usual, and by seven o’clock I was already walking the halls in the nursing home. I approached Mr. Alexander’s nurse and asked her about him.
“He’s still with us!” She exclaimed. “I just left his room.”
I headed to Mr. Alexander’s room. His appearance startled me as he looked worse than he had the last time I saw him. I held his hand. It was warm. I fixed my eyes on him. After a few minutes, I saw no signs of breathing. I drew closer. He was still. I called the nurses. Two nurses came in and examined him.
He had just passed on.
“Strange...” his nurse said. “It’s almost like if he was waiting for you...”
“Yeah...” I spoke softly—struggling to find words as tears welled in my eyes.
Mr. Alexander had died in his sleep. In a peaceful dream, I hoped.