Today I went to the hospital to say good bye to my friend Steve. Steve is going back to his home country tomorrow. Steve is 30, has a brain tumor, has less than a year to live and doesn't know. But everyone else does. Steve's uncle told me last week that the doctors have done all they could for him. But Steve seemed really cheery today, talking about the future as if it were going to happen. He mentioned today that he wanted to be a nurse, that being in a hospital for a month had given him a real respect for health care professionals and the work they do. It was lunch time when I got there and he complained about the food; I commiserated. There was nothing on TV. I let him do most of the talking. He said that he had been in such pain the month before he was hospitalized. Does it make sense for everyone to know that Steve is dying, but Steve does not? Apparently he only has a few more months of lucidity before the tumor will wipe him out. Do we let him enjoy these final months? Or do we tell him so that he can prepare himself?
I remember how terrible I felt when I had been arrested and deported from Korea, all within two days. No chance to say goodbye to friends, relatives, colleagues. No chance to retrieve the things I had worked so hard for. Maybe this is why I wanted to say goodbye today instead of 'see you soon'. But again, a simple lie took the place of the demanding truth. At the end of life, do we end up buried under a peaceful mountain of little lies?