my next door neighbor started working at the clinic 8 and 1/2 years ago. i was responsible for hiring him. during the job interview he touched me deeply when he looked me in the eyes and said "i'll always give 100% and you'll always be able to count on me." over the years he's consistently demonstrated that.
he is from west africa originally. although we're very different, we grew to become friends and look after one another. when i had 2 rez dogs, he'd take care of them and water my plants during my extended leaves. his positivity and ever present laughter brightened up my life as well as the lives of his patients and co-workers. we tease him at work about his aphorisms. he was fond of saying things like "failure to prepare is preparing to fail." walking home with him daily i grew tired of saying "see you tomorrow" because i knew the inevitable response would be "god willing." why couldn't he just say "yeah, see you tomorrow." so instead, i started saying "have a good evening" as we parted ways. i didn't like thinking that one day we wouldn't share the walk home or see one another tomorrow.
3 nights ago jamaal and i drove him to the emergency room in flagstaff because he'd been demonstrating confusion and difficulty expressing himself. his upbeat affect had been replaced by a sullenness and flat affect. his co-workers asked him if he was depressed which he denied. he'd been seen several times at a nearby clinic and each time he'd return saying "they say i just have to get my blood pressure down." before leaving for flagstaff we checked his blood pressure. it was fine.
he was diagnosed with a form of brain cancer that carries a dismal prognosis. i'm not even sure he's aware of it yet. after spending time with him this weekend in the icu, i went out yesterday and did the one thing that brings me joy. i pasted with him in mind (though the image is not of him), and reflected on the lessons i've learned from doing so over the past 3 years - about how the images are here for only a short while before passing away; about how each wall is different and how important it is to appreciate it's unique qualities and how ultimately i have to let go. but as long as the images are here, i can love them as intensely as i want.
so, here's to you neighbor. godspeed.