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  • Writer's picture Gabrielle Elise Jimenez

"I don't want to be alone."

I sat down next to his bed and told him matter-a-factly, “you have to let people help you, you cannot do this on your own anymore.” I watched his eyes fill with tears and felt my own start to sting as they too began to spill over. He was only 42 years old.


That was the beginning of our journey together.

His sister had sent me an email, asking me if I would help her brother who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness that had started to take its toll on him physically, mentally, and emotionally. Their parents had died when they were in their 20’s, leaving them on their own to figure out life. And until his diagnosis, they actually did pretty well by each other, but now she found herself sad, alone, and scared as he slowly started pushing her away.


Although advised to start hospice, he chose not to, and refused help from anyone who offered. She tried to help him the best she could, but he continued to push her away. On the rare occasions that he would let her in, she was able to see his continued decline, one time helping him off the floor when he fell. She reached out to me to see if I could talk to him and encourage him to start hospice and accept help.


It took three visits before he started to open up to me. He admitted that this was not easy for him, that ignoring and avoiding his sister broke his heart, but he didn’t want her to see him this way, he didn’t want anyone to see him this way. This was a strong and stoic man, who had always been athletic, active, and social, slowly becoming weak and fragile, nearing the end of his life, and isolating himself from all who love him.


One of the most honest and real things he said to me, was “I don’t want to be alone.”


I used my best “tough love” on him, and after many long conversations, walls broken through, and bucket-loads of tears, he finally agreed to start hospice, and accept help from his sister, his neighbors, and his friends. I spent a lot of time with all of them, having deep conversations about life, death, family, friendship, fear, and love. Because he started hospice, and received good care, his quality of life improved and he graduated hospice. This does not always happen, but it happened for him. He was gifted a few months, which they all savored. He started to decline again, and after a few doctors’ visits, I received a call that he was back on hospice again.


What he went through is not abnormal, there are so many people who have a difficult time accepting the hand that is extended. I honestly think they see it as a sign of weakness if they need or are asking for help. It resembles failure. I also notice that some people choose not to talk about it with anyone, hoping that it won’t be real if it is not spoken about. Not talking about the elephant in the room does not make it invisible. In his case, not talking about it, not dealing with his decline, and not letting anyone in, just made him feel more alone… the one thing he wanted most not to feel.


He was gifted more time, something no one can promise or guarantee. He died last week with his sister and his wonderful group of friends at his bedside. I had the honor of sitting with all of them a few days before he died. I led a candle lighting ritual with them, offering them all a chance to say one word that resonates with them when they think of him. The words were perfect, brother, friend, strength, brave, kind, love, life. And when it came to his turn, I invited him to say one word that resonated with him, and how he was feeling. He said in a whisper, “grateful,” and finished with… “for having more time, and for none of you giving up on me, and not letting me be alone, and leaving this life knowing what it feels like to be loved.”


What I learned from this, is how hard it is for some people to ask for and accept help, and yet at the same time, when they do, what a difference it can make in situations that are difficult, emotional, scary, and final.


What can we all learn from this… let’s do our best to make sure no one feels alone.





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