My husband and I visited with the French gentleman once he was in palliative care. I brought him roasted quails in aluminum foil, without the wine, like I had done when he was home and well. The aroma of the spices from the burning electric BBQ grill had drifted his way one evening and, since he was alone, I thought it would be nice to give him a little dinner. Following his death, his daughter had told me how much he had enjoyed the dinner. It had been a long time he hadn’t had quail, so it was a real treat to have one of his favourite foods again. I wasn’t sure it was appropriate to bring them to the hospital, but I did it for my dying neighbour. Since he had already eaten that evening of our visit, I put them in the refrigerator at the hospital, so he could have them the next day. He was very appreciative.
When my husband left the room for a few minutes, I asked my neighbor if there was any thing I could do or get for him.
“Thank you, you’re very kind… You, of all people, know what’s going on in my head, because you’ve been there.” He spoke French to me.
I think that people with cancer feel connected to each other, and the unspoken words express the fear of death, the pain, and the sadness. He didn’t have to say what he said, but I often hear those words from other patients.
I just nodded, thinking he knew what was coming. We went to his funeral a couple of weeks later. A violin sat atop a stand next to his casket. When I asked about it, his children told me he had been a professional violinist. Now it made sense. During the summers, I would hear music coming from his old, rusted rooftop shed that held a Flintstone pinwheel raised at the front end. I always thought he was listening to classical music on old records. But it was him, and he played beautifully. It turned out he used to work with an orchestra here in the city.
I kept indoors during my treatments since they took place during Fall and Winter, and I was some distance away from the rest of the neighbours on my short street. So there was no interaction between the other neighbours and myself. There were no young children, so the grown ups didn’t really hang out outdoors there. I didn’t know who else lived there until years later.