Sitting with a dying man...



What are life and death and their inexorability relative to the human condition?

Sitting with a dying man…

Crashing, clanking
in my head?
Against my steel rack.
Ripped from
Crackling radio.
Chained skeleton
keys tinkling.
Flashed light
my eyes.

“Simon! Get up!”

O’three hundred.
My shift for Hospice Care.
Whatever that means.
A pleasant tag for an unpleasant terminus.
A death-watch, really.

I am escorted
across the compound
by a ruddy rotund CO.
To where death awaits
me, and him.
No small talk: too tired.
Keys.  Unlock.  Lock.
Inside. Elevator.
Down the hall.
Third door…
on the left.

Darkness. Odor.
Still. Quietus?
Still non clausit diem.

I’m sitting,
sitting with dying man.

His name? Why ask?  It’s not relevant to my observation.

He could be anyone.
He is everyone.
And no one in particular.
He is this night’s
corpus delicti.

You. Your father.
Me. My father.
A loved one.
Hated if you must.

It makes no difference: changes nothing.
He is in the small, short hours
of this existence.

Subtle but pungent;
septic yet antiseptic,
odors, at once,
flow over my olfactories
in this last lazaretto.
A station for geriatric dead ends.
A museum of felonious extinction.
Viscous fossils pending petrification.

His countenance?
At prima facie?
Precarious. At best.
At worst. Worse.
Severely reduced mass.
Sunken features: Hippocratic facies.
Epidermis snug to the contours of the skull.

Embalmed, mummified: A Pharaoh, resurrected, briefly.

Eruptions of expanding deep purple islands,
some substantial, some seeds,
most like ravenous cancer,
consumes his lifeless existence.

I am told his friend recently went on ahead.
Is he sending word back?
Could be.
Must be.
Seems he is imminently following his lead.

Willing to be with him. Again.
Willfully committing felon-de-se.
Will he find him?
Will he be where he himself
is going?

Vertically split curtains
– on one side life, the other, all else –
afford a clear view, allowing a liquidus
golden beam to slip through the narrow breach,
splashing, washing,
illuminating, exaggerating,
facial furrows, depressed depressions,
amplifying the dark hollowed cavities where
horizontally slit curtains
now, still,
afford a dimming view, allowing the fluidus
warmth through the narrowing breaches,
into his diminished mind.

Soon his curtains will be drawn shut
one final time.
Very soon.
I think.

Septuagenarian Sister,
knurled hands as if krumholtz incarnate,
comes to pray over him:
“We ask Jesus to come to him on this part of his journey….”

To where?
What for?

Does he even believe?
In salvation?
In the Good Book?

Has he a Mephistophelean pakt?
Has he paid the ferryman with multitudinous,
egregious sins, securing his passage across
the phlegethon of stygian depths?
Mark twain?

Facilis descensus averni.

He will – will he? – be judged
according to the
malleus maleficarum.

And? If he does believe?
That Jesus has purchased his soul.

What was the price?
How much did it cost?
Who was paid?
Quid pro quo?
What for what?
Nunc pro tunc?

Ex gratia?
A grands frais? No?

What is it that anyone, any god,
would think the soul has any value whatever?

A penny for your thoughts?
Too expensive.

Why am I not as moved as I imagined
I would be?
Actually, I feel quite indifferent,
nearer insensitive.

Am I evil for feeling,
For thinking this trifle?
Honi soit qui mal y pense!?

An anticlimax.

Yet, I am no misanthrope,

Auch kein untermensch.
Aber übermensch?

I suppose it is some instinctively innate,
purely primal, survival strategy,
protecting me from the presence
of this kind of extensible expiration.

Then again,
I have been in the wake
of mortality a time before.

Have been here
for a mere one and a half
give or take a minute
or more.
Still two and a half
to go,
plus less or minus more.

A massive intravenous injection
of morphine – I my coffee –
takes his pain sensory
from nine to seven.
I think.
On a scale of one to ten,
even more.
Ten being excruciating.
Intolerable for someone who doesn’t
experience perpetual pain.

I’m thinking…
he is so used to living with
his intimately learned pain,
that what he feels
as nine
is more like twelve,
to you or me,
Maybe more.

To the touch, his skin,
clammy, tepid,
a thin opaque film,
tenuously holding
in his innards
perforable by the most
minuscule prick.

Scarce few stemlets
cover his otherwise pale
And where once a manly
beard must have grown,
fine-white-gray stublets
sprout from his now jutting
Protruding because his toothless gums
have fallen inward.

So helpless.
So harmless.
So hopeless.
So human.

A rusting wraith.
A decaying hulk in the junkyard of humanity.

Commingled gown and sheet cover
what is left of his dignity.
Draping his emaciated skelet
like a collapsed tent,
him within
from without.

Most of my inquiries
go unanswered.
Not because he cannot hear
but because the once
simple act of speaking,
has become an intensely
laborious task.

He is utterly spent, yet,
afraid to sleep.
Too terrified of awakening,

Folds: those sweeping his globes;
uncontrollably heavy.
Mouth: that parched half-dime,
half-circle orifice
under his bony-thin nose;
they grow ever smaller.

His body.
Demanding rest.

I think of my own father.
Now 83.

How long?
His life?
How short?

Will I see him again?
Will Jesus tell me?
Won’t?  Because He doesn’t exist?

How old, this man?
Life’s apex,
long evaporated?

Easily, he could have risen
from the valley of the Kings
– Memphis or Thebes –
along the timeless Nile;
having slumbered there
for the past 4000 years,
ready to return,
at any instant,
with each, dusty-dry, counted,

A quasi state of unconsciousness
has overtaken him.

Torso, limbs, jactitating.
Spamming in jolts and jerks,
ticks and tugs.
As if the spirits from beyond
taunt him.

Not now.
Not yet.

Cognizance brings him back
after a few,
insufficient moments of
restless rest.

He struggles to move
his depraved frame
even ever slightly.
Not at all.
How is it,
when your body
no longer responds?

So I wonder.
Where is Jesus?
Is he here?
In this sterile cubicle,
with him?
In his head?
Not mine.
I’ve apostatized.

For that matter,
where is God?
For all – just as certain – I know,
God is dead, too.

A fantastic fiction.
A phantasmagorical fable.
A contrived concoction.
A necessarily invented artifice
to inflate the soul,
to pretend a pretended
A useless, unwanted
A problematic paradoxical

The antithesis?

A probable possibility?

That insatiable need to believe
in an omnipresent god,
or omnipotent higher
if you want,
need, at best,
cannot live without.

So, then,
He may well be present
in some inscrutably scrutable
His unblemished mighty
might well be embattled with
contra forces
over his decrepit,
tormented soul.

Locked in some paranormal,
yes, mythical,
like metaphysical warfare
with the dark side,
deciding his post-mortem fate?

Why do people insist on
insulting whatever intelligence
they may yet have
desperately accumulated?

Flummox and flummery.

Which sides [of us] revel in schadenfreude?
Or is it a perverted glüchkschmertz?

Which halves [of anyone] pity
the frailty of our collective

Which matters?
What matters?
Who matters?

Dog’s leg chance?
Hobson’s choice?


Has this man seen the other side?
Has this man seen them already?

Egal: it is of no consequence.

The other side,
the heavy side,
is unstoppably,
claiming, calling him over.
A beckoning which does not
allow refusal,
has its bone-chilling hand
on his shoulder.
He cannot escape
its morbid grip.

Whether later or now,
or somewhere in between,
the appointment, in a sense,
per se, is a fait accompli.
Pro se: done deal.

Thoughts continue to tumble through
my analysis and out of my synthesis.
Some as if shoes drying in a dryer.
Others warmed
blankets just out of the dryer.

Has he accepted the circle of life?
Have I myself accepted…it?
Is it amor fati?
There is no arguing it.
Sisyphus work.

Fakt: He is at the beginning of the end
of what has not been the beginning for a

Hours, seconds,
years, minutes to memories,
life to lifelessness.

Time, inexorably interminable;
unrelentingly lives
a singular direction.
An enigmatic,
like ubiquitous juggernaut.

Nichts dauert für immer.
Nicht wahr?

Again: he drifts.
Again: he is taunted.

Will he finally be pulled
Will he go with them?
He is resisting – them.
I think.

It could only be a welcome relief,
to at last,
be excused from this
all too unforgiving vicissitudinous state:
what is called vitae.

His soul will take flight,
gladly evicted from
its temporal residence,
never again to re-enter its
condemned premises.
The only address it has
ever known.
For it will soon be

I assume he has been
imagining what
it will be like, or,
quite possibly, what it
will not be like
to move on.

To die.

No movement.
Calm. Deadening silence.

Oculi rolled back,
opaque marbles,
in their dark,
deepened divots.
Partially opened.
Impartially closed.

No pulse
in his carotid artery
nearest me.

Exit life?
Enter Elysium?

Still, there is
another desperate aspiration.
A reprieve; yet again.
His time postponed
sine die.

Inhibitive inhalation.
Exhaustive exhalation.
What is called: death rattle.
Terminal secretions.

Is he dreaming?
Of his youth?
His wife?
Maybe his children?
Was he loved?
Did he love?
Surely he hated as he was
For his crimes
against society
by this society.

And when he departs
his temporal, depleted,
utterly spent shell,
will he go to them?
Or, will they
be separated by that
unbridgeable chasm
dividing hell and heaven
and purgatory in between?

It really makes no difference,
maybe, to him;
he has family or friend or both
in each eternity.


Will they recognize him:
if he gets there?

Has the gatekeeper of paradise,
be it Saint Peter or
whomever, turned to the place
in the Book of Life,
and there his name
to be found,
been patiently waiting;
waiting for him?
Or not?

I don’t know this man
from the next man or
felon and I couldn’t
even put a good word
in for him
if I wanted to.
No one can.

He is alone with the life
he has lived;
it echoes in all

What has he made of it?
Done with it?
A magnum opus?
Did he have or even
create one? Something?
Re infecta?

Seine Lebenswelt?
Sein Lebenslauf?
Wie Bitte?

My shift is stretching.
I too.
In an hour and less than
thirty minutes,
I will walk away
from this death in progress.

Will I see this man,
by the time I am
shaken from my slumber
for my next shift?
Or, will I myself
live long enough
to be at his side,
sitting with him,
a dying man,

I cannot, with credible certitude,
know if tomorrow
will bring,
or not bring – life.
Tomorrow, therefore, isn’t, cannot be,

Not here, in this seen dimension
as we think we know it.

A coup sur:
There will be a tomorrow.
It will bring a little life
to some,
much life
to another,
to any of them.
Memento mori!

The time has come.

I stroke his forehead
look into his cloudy
and tell him:
“Good-bye, take care,
see you next time.”

What is a man,
this man,
any man,
to do with those
Any words?

Any words, at a time like
this, no matter
how genuine
or heart-felt,
seem superficially placative,
mostly vacuous,
and wholly worthless
and just as meaningless.

My shift is over.

And as I walk away
from this process in
the making, of factio mortis,
I am momentarily, mortally
stunned by a
sangfroid, gripping,
deathly chill that spills
over me
as I feel
a silent small voice
whisper into the ear of
my mind:
“Who will sit with you when…
your day,
your tomorrow,
your time comes?”

[blinding silence]

And then the morbid realization
sets in.
Searing my psyche.
A disturbing epiphany.
An answer comes
forth – rises – from the well
of my soul:
“You are always sitting
with a dying man.
You are always sitting
with yourself.”

A dying man….

frederick manfred simon – #kaputgeratlupinum
dichter – denker – dreher
copyright – 12.12.10

Full story at

Visit or contact me on Facebook – Twitter – Pinterest – Instagram – Google+ – Tumblr – Email

Global Scriggler.DomainModel.Publication.Visibility
There's more where that came from!