The Last Glance at You

Inside a hospital, Shinjae was facing death. His liver cancer had now spread to the spine, lungs, and brain.

A few days ago, his fever became so high that his wife had no choice but to call an ambulance. The trip to the hospital felt like a one-way road; everyone in the car knew that he would not be able to come back to his own house.

People around Shinjae used to praise his relentless optimism. However, lying on a bed for two months while undergoing two dangerous surgeries transformed him into a dejected pessimist. No one could blame him for the dramatic change.

“I can’t remember things clearly,” Shinjae told the nurse beside him. Ever since the first surgery to remove tumors on the spine, at least five different drugs had filled his body. A patch on his chest, daily injections, and narcotic medications were potent but insufficient to keep him at peace.

Past few days, Shinjae had many visitors. His brother, sisters, and friends all had to hold tears because they sensed it would be their last chance to be with him.

Shinjae could hardly eat, talk, or think. However, he somehow managed to tell the visitors a few words. “My great hero,” Shinjae said to his younger brother. “I’m happy to see you,” he told his old friend.

Shinjae’s children took turns spending a night with him. Every night, a child cared for him suffering from fever, hiccups, and sputum. Shinjae barely talked, and his jaundiced eyes could not see much. He still nodded slightly to communicate appreciation for the children’s presence.

The time was coming to an end. His doctor suggested that the disease was incurable, and he would now be required to move to a hospice facility in two weeks. The family wished to keep him in the same room, but the hospital mandated all patients to clear the space in four weeks.

“The hospice facility has a terrible reputation. I don’t want my dad to spend his last moment inside a cramped room.” Shinjae’s son said to the caregiver next to him. The son could not bear that the doctor would send the dying patient to a worse environment. His father’s life deserved much more respect than that.

Under the influence of strong painkillers, Shinjae could nonetheless hear the conversation between his son and the caregiver. His finger twitched a little bit. He had to choose while he could.

Shinjae felt his heartbeat and began to hold his breath. He mustered all of the energy to turn his head and took a last glance at his son. “I’m sorry,” Shinjae said quietly to everyone he could think of.

The monitor began to make a noise, and a nurse entered the room to check his vital signs. The son couldn’t do anything but tremble. Shinjae was now free from cancer.