Not too much time left

– She’s no better.

– No, she isn’t.

– They can’t help her?

– No. They can’t. The lab examinations are bad.

She’s weeping.

– You took what I gave you? The antidepressant.

– Yes.

– And?

– I’m sleeping better. Thank you.

– But it’s still there… the pain… Of course it’s still there…

– Yes.

Her daughter has abruptly and unexpectedly been diagnosed with a genetic disorder. In her 30s. She didn’t know she had it. This could have never been foreseen. Who does routinely genetic tests?! Nobody. Even cancer is better news, as it has some sort of logic… or a narrative, a coherence: you get sick – you suffer – you die. But a genetic disorder is worse. You have it since the moment you’re born. And you don’t know it because you’re not normally tested for it. You don’t know your time is limited, you don’t know you’re going to die, you don’t know you’re dying. You are an unexploded delayed bomb. Until one day.

– You eat?

– A bit.

– Guilt?

– Yes, although I know – the doctors told me – that there was nothing I could do. Still, I feel guilty. She’s my daughter. I gave her the disease.

– You didn’t.

She looks directly in my eyes:

– I gave her life!

I concede:

– You’re right.

I reformulate:

– You gave her life and, by doing so, you gave her a body. A body with, unfortunately, a genetic flaw. With a disease.

– You see… now you understand.

– I do.

I validate her guilt. Although philosophy can be done on “who caused what”, it is not the moment.

– And besides life, I also gave her death.

– We can’t avoid that. They come together.

– You’re right. We can’t.


– What do you do all day?

– I go see her in the hospital.

– How’s she?

– More and more weakened as time passes. Icteric. The liver’s failing.

I don’t know what to say more. I don’t know what to do more. I’m just sitting there like a stupid stone. It takes ages to find a way out. I can’t tolerate not saying anything, or more precisely, not knowing what to do next, or if there’s something I ought to do next. I struggle. I judge myself of being an idiot. Then I remind myself that I am just a simple man with his own limitations. Then I remember that I do not have to know, at any freaking given moment, what is to be done or what I should be doing, both with myself and with the others.

– What do you do when you’re not in the hospital with her?

– I tried to work.

– And?

– You know… I clean and look after old persons… that’s what I did all my life. And I went for one day. And then I stopped…

Instead of asking why, I continue her words:

– You couldn’t stand the fact that your daughter is dying and that old person is still doing just fine…

She nods. And she begins to cry. I wait. We both inhabit the uneasy present moment; she’s with her pain and I’m with my inability to comfort her. She calms down after a while.

– Life is unfair!

– It is.

– It is unfair that my daughter has to die and that old woman in her 90s is so full of life and healthy!

– It is.

And she hopelessly helplessly weeps again.

Are we the masters of our lives? Are we the captains of our ship?

How thoughtless can one be so as to believe that a good life is only the result of courage, ambition and work?! I invite those believing that they are creating their own destiny to come and take a seat in front of this woman and tell her something… wise… A motivational speech maybe?!

I become aware of myself.

Many people told me that my life is going to be wonderful with the right amount of dedication and effort. They were wrong. It is not true. The opposite is also not true. Some personal effort is certainly needed. But I dislike extremists, uncompromising self-declared philosophers with no doubts. My personally history is full of encounters with self-appointed evangelists, preaching the uncontested truth that “where there is a will there is a way”. They are all delusional.

She is angry. She is not depressed. She experiences the unfairness of life. I experience again, with her and for slightly different reasons, the same unfairness.

– Can I do something more for you?

– No. I go see her at the hospital. I want to spend more time with her…

And she raises her tearful eyes to me while hazily smiling:

 – There’s not too much time left. We’ll make good use of it.