It was time for another death bed. My wife and I received the news only a few hours before. An office clerk Sam who had retired only a few months ago was going to pass on. His prepared obituary did not provide much information. Sam had a family we could rely on this time. It has been a long time since I’ve been in the family position attending one of these, fortunately.
We arrived early and got held up at the entrance. This wasn’t uncommon. My wife’s first name is always miswritten and it wouldn’t be the last time we would be held up while security examined our summons. We made it to Sam; the crowd was only starting to form so we took our positions. However common, the act of watching others pass on never sat well with my wife so we usually took the nosebleed section when available.
Sam had opted for the somber scene, which I may choose for myself. There was a bed set in the center as always, but Sam had his family sitting there and he in a plush green chair. Sam had a lot on his mind. Certainly with life on the line, the anxiety of passing on isn’t overlooked by anyone. Sam must have lived a minimal life; I did not notice any art or possessions he wanted to see one last time. I had never known Sam, but in these little choices for his final day, I felt a connection.
Attendees filled in and the time drew closer. It has always struck me as a bit odd, attending these larger deathbeds, that I rarely recognize anyone in the crowd. Growing up in a smaller town, you couldn’t help but see a majority of the same people. There was a warmth, usually reserved for the passing, that was shared by everyone because we all did know each other. These larger gatherings seem cold in comparison. Sam was born in this city though so there’s got to be some nuance in his decision.
Light discussion between Sam and his family continued for some time. I could not make out any last wishes or advice. Final advice was probably the most compelling piece of the ceremony for me. Honestly, how many words in life can carry as much weight as someone's last? No matter what they chose to say, since they chose to say it, it's golden. Sam must have ended on a sweet note because the first few rows whispered bright sighs and even some audible awe.
At last Sam grew quiet. He managed to throw up a slight thumbs up signaling the light operator. The white light was perhaps a bit too bright; my wife flinched at the most likely brand new bulb's glow. The crowd began the song, quickly gaining a harmony amongst ourselves.
"Sam, we will carry on the world you have built with us. In a single person's passing, all of our lives flash before our eyes but let us live on beyond this flash without you. We love you, Sam. Please will us to continue on!"
These words have become so monotonous, but for some reason they felt as if they had really came from my heart. Maybe because of my feelings for Sam, maybe for the feeling of my wife clinging to my arm after all these years, maybe because frankly the story shouldn't ever end. It was all up to Sam.
Silence took over the crowd until the light dimmed. Sam's daughter had calmly walked over to him. She checked his pulse and gestured to the light operator. The light turned off and the crowd began to disperse. My wife and I were opposite the main exit so we headed towards a nearby stairwell. I caught a glance of Sam up close and was happy to see his slight grin.