Willard was 76-years-old. He lay in the hospital bed next to mine for the four-day duration.
The nurses loved him. “He is so cute,” they would often say. One nurse wished aloud she could take him home.
Willard snored louder than anyone I’ve ever heard. And he snored longer. When not snoring, he was talking in his sleep. When neither snoring nor talking, he was trying to climb out of the bed. That triggered an alarm that was louder than even his snoring and sent a half-dozen young nurses running past the foot of my bed to ‘rebuke’ Willard.
Willard, Jr. was there every day to visit his dad. Junior was a massive man who sported a bushy beard one would expect in southern Indiana.
Junior broke down and cried the first day. He kept saying, “I love you, Dad.”
Willard always responded, “I love you, Junior.”
Other than his feet, I only caught one brief glimpse of Willard. Yes, he was the quintessential little old man. He was as “cute” as a 76-year-old could be.
Yesterday morning, Junior passed by the foot of my bed and disappeared behind the curtain that divided the room.
He explained to Willard that tests revealed spots on his brain and other extremities; indications of cancer.
No wonder, I thought, that Willard was so absent-minded. When asked, for example, he seldom knew where he was.
This morning my physician stopped by for one last abdominal poke and promise of discharge papers.
So, I called my wife, got dressed in my sweats, and lay on my bed staring at the ceiling.
Junior walked in. As always, I couldn’t help overhearing. He informed Willard that medics would soon arrive to transport him to hospice. His cancer was aggressive. There was no treatment.
A rare moment of silence was followed by Willard asking, “So, how is the time?”
Junior reported, “9:30 in the morning.”
“No,” Willard corrected, “When does the doctor say I’m going to croak?”
Apparently, Willard was ready.
So many observations could be made; so many lessons learned.
From Willard (not his real name) I learned that my life’s turbulence is often no match for that being experienced by others. I learned that fleeting acquaintances can be the most valuable, that in the most dire circumstances one can endow joy to strangers; to be “cute”.
And so I say, “Goodbye, Willard. Thanks for the lessons.”
What lessons did Willard teach you?