Neighbours. His wife called close to 10. He didn't have the strength to get himself off the toilet and she didn't have the strength to get him up either. I said I'd be right over.
I went in my old Harley tee-shirt and sweat pants, a real "come as you are" party, figuring I'd have my pal safely into bed and be home in no time.
I hesitated as I neared their bathroom to make some sort of smart-ass remark to let my buddy know I was there and was coming in to help him. No guy, even if he is 78, wants to deal with that. He quipped something I vaguely remember as suitably sarcastic right back but damned if I can recall what I said or his retort. All I know is that was the last thing ever said to him and the last thing he ever said either.
He looked up, plainly distressed, and reached out one arm. I grabbed his hand and forearm and tried to lift him up but the more I pulled the more he sagged. Finally I reached forward, put my arms beneath his, and lifted.
His devoted wife of 57-years worked out how to get his walker between us. He grabbed the handholds and we moved toward the bed less than ten feet distant.
One step and I could tell he was distressed. He'd taken a sleeping pill about a half hour earlier and we figured he was just passing out.
I got behind and put my arms beneath his hoping that I could carry most of his weight so that he could get himself to his bed. He died in my arms. His head fell, he lost his grip on the walker, and he gently fell to his knees. I lowered him onto the carpeted floor.
We thought, at first, that he'd passed out from the sleeping pill and his chronic fatigue. He just went down way too gently for death. Yet death it was, gentle or no.
By today's standards he was lucky. He died in his own home, his wife of 57-years and a good buddy at his side. And he went down easy, real easy, and I laid him down to rest.
He was one of the good guys. Big, robust and, in his younger years, utterly rowdy but with a heart of 24-carat gold. Much like my own father. They were both top-tier lacrosse players and never shied away much from a scrap either.
After he passed his love of life had to deal with paramedics, advanced paramedics, the fire department guys., the RCMP, the coroner and the funerary attendants. I think she got 2-hours rest last night. I bagged 3.
I'm sick and tired of truly good people dying around me. Too many, too fast.