A different departure



If you are lucky, or rich, you might actually know the day when you will die. It is rich people that have a doctor, here. Their own doctor.

They can walk into a hospital – or an office of their personal doctor – and actually narrate their experiences without being interrupted and have the health passport book shoved into their faces. When the rich finish detailing their experiences, they are told to follow the doctor to the labs where all the tests are conducted and, if there is something wrong there, the doctor says:


“There is something in your scans, I need an expert opinion. Come again on Wednesday, at 10.”

“10? No, I will be very busy. Let us make it another time. 2?”

“That’s fine. 2 it is.”


We, the middle class who are also the technically poor just with the ability to perform better-off from the poor, do not have such luxury. Not to talk of the actually poor.

The actually poor, since they have no medical aid, walk into a hospital and the moment they start speaking, they get a diagnosis.

No questions. No stories. Just a diagnosis. And some medication which, oftentimes than once, are never available in the pharmacy of the hospital.

When they eventually die a few weeks later, nobody actually realises that with actual tests one could have known their day of death. And, maybe, leave the earth a better place than they found it.

For the rich, they can know. Because when they return for the expert opinion, they get told:

“I am sorry, sir,” – they are called Sir – “the results are not that inspiring.”

He is rich and one of the allusions that rich people like to show, despite decades of evidence being against it, is that they can use wealth to reverse every unfavourable situation. So, he does not start to think of the limitless possibilities of what those results can be for them to be uninspiring. He orders the doctor to just come out with it.

“According to the results, Sir, you are showing signs of having,” then he mentions a condition that can only be spelt in a doctor language which, when you come to think of it, is not different from their handwriting.

“What does that mean?”

The doctor swallows hard, battles a tear even, and for a moment maybe he wishes he was not the one to break the news. But, he is there. He cannot backtrack. He is his personal doctor.

“Sir, it means you have a few days to live. The condition is fatal.”

“A few days like how many, two or three?”

If the doctor would have a sense of humour – or if he throws away the ethics – he would say the client is being unkind to himself, it is not that little. It is six actually. And when the client’s eyes go wide and in wonder, say:

“Only six, are you kidding me?”

The doctor will smile, thinly, and repeat with emphasis:

“It is only six, Sir. Six months.”

Then perhaps they might both laugh. Until the client realises that six months are not six years. Not even six decades. So, it is still soon.

But this doctor still realises he has ethics he is accountable to. So, he says in a matter of fact final tone:

“It is six months, Sir, at most.”

The client does not show to the doctor that he wants to fight his opinion, although he does in secret and eventually gives up when he realises they are all saying more of the same thing. He sits there, listen to the doctor refer him to a counsellor who will also be doing tests to be communicating to him how soon he is close to death while at the same time preparing him for it.

I ask: how does it feel to be in that position, of knowing the ultimate act is about to be executed, at such a time?

“It is hard,” he states the obvious.

Hard because one does not know how to initially react to it. When one realises the actuality of death, they also struggle whom to share the news with. Or, if they can just keep it to themselves. Act like nothing is happening and go around life as every day.

“For me,” he says. “I told a few people.”

“How did they react?”

“It’s been different for each one of them. There have been those who still think it is reversible, either by hook or crook,” by hook or crook he means either through medical advancements or religious prayers – the kind that are targeted at deafening God.

“Then, there have been some that have accepted I am going. Those ones, I sense their despair. And anger, maybe. They have started getting distant, which is sad.”

They treat him like someone with a contagious disease. They stopped calling. Stopped asking him ‘where are you, boss, are you free this weekend, there is an event at which I am requesting you to be the guest of honour’. Those whom he call hardly ever pick up the phone and, when they do, they are busy with thing A or B so they will get back to him. They never do.

There are moments he wishes he never disclosed anything to anyone. And had told his doctor to keep the secret so that someday he just collapses, maybe in the midst of an event.

“Is it different with being on the deathbed?”

“Very different. I think, people come to visit you when hospitalised, they come to show you some love, they come to keep hoping,” and, I add: to get some fodder for gossip. “When they realise you know you are dying, and have made peace with it, it rattles them somehow.”

“Or, maybe, they start teaching themselves to live without you.”

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