Last Communion

The son stood in the doorway. In his pocket he grasped a letter that he had gotten from his father while he was away in a far-off country. It told him that everything would be OK and that he should stay where he was. He came home.

The son watched closely for signs of life. He waited his father’s chest heaved upward before stepping through the doorway. The passage of air through his throat and lungs sounded like a trumpet without the mouthpiece. No note — just an empty hiss through a narrow pipe.

They had stopped feeding him fat and protein a few days earlier. All that was left to pass through the tube into his chest was the salt and sugar solution. They started off by feeding him through his arms, but his limbs had refused to accommodate the frequent intrusions of metal and plastic a few days before. His forearms were blotched and bruised. His skin had a yellow tinge. His tongue and lips were dry and scabbed.

The son had discovered his father lying on the bathroom floor a few days before. He was bleeding from the back of his head. As he lifted his father’s head up off the cold tile, they held one another’s gaze. “I knew you knew I wasn’t faking it,” he joked later. He had played his last set of tennis the day before.

The son went over to the bed and took his father’s hand. He had stopped responding to sounds the day before and now he was unresponsive to touch. His arms which had twitched uncontrollably earlier in the day now followed only the movement of his chest. The intervals between each agonal breath lengthened and the breaths themselves took more strength than they afforded him.

The nurse came into change the solution bag. She waited a discreet moment, not wanting to interrupt the communion before her. The son let go of his father’s hand, his eyes moist and distant. “That won’t be necessary.”

The young man whispered a brief prayer and went back home to prepare for his father’s burial.

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Dexter Van Zile

Dexter Van Zile

Managing Editor of Focus on Western Islamism (FWI), published by the Middle East Forum. His opinions are his own.