First Person

At the deathbed of a man who cared for others

Every week, Cameron visited the lonely and afflicted. Now I’m visiting him.

When I arrive at the intensive care unit, the doctor tells me that Cameron is unresponsive, that he will die soon, very soon, perhaps that night.

I stare at Cameron through the sliding-glass door. He’s lying on a bed with tubes and wires connecting his body to machines and translucent bags of fluids—saline and morphine, the doctor briefs me, to keep him hydrated and dull his pain. As I open the door, I hear a beep coming from a monitor suspended above him, a monotonous tone keeping time with his heart’s pulse, reminding doctors and nurses and me that he’s still alive, despite the lifelessness of his glazed eyes.

Sitting beside his bed, my tears dripping on his sheets, I reach my hand to his. My fingers quiver as we touch. I expect the warmth of my palm to awaken life in his. I expect his hand to grasp mine in return—the unspoken rule of hand holding, of mutual recognition, the instinctual acknowledgment of touch. But his hand is limp, his skin cold and dry.