"Just tell me what is scaring you," she said in a reaffirming voice.
"I'm scared," the boy in a hospital bed said, "I think about how I am dying, and I don't know what will happen to me."
Introducing Dr. Megan Hopper. "You don't have to worry," she told the boy, "Charles, listen to me...." She put her hand on his arm and looked at him straight in the eye. "You don't need to be afraid. There will be a day when you go to sleep and you can't wake up. But when you're asleep, you'll have these beautiful dreams, where you see all these wonderful colors, smell all these beautiful scents, and feel all these wonderful things. You won't be alone. You will be with others who will look out for you, and you won't have to worry about your safety. Where you're going, it's someplace better than here."
"Thanks, doc-tore," the small child said, "I'm scared still, but the way you say, maybe I can't wait..." A small smile of hope and joy shined forward from the child's face.
Megan checked her watch. "Charles..." she said, gently reaffirming her grasp on the young child's arm, "I have to go now, but I don't want you to be afraid. You're going to a safe, warm, kind place."
"Thank you, doc-tore..." the child said, reaching out to her as she left the room, the child reaching out to her.
"Bye, sweetheart," she said, exiting the hospital room.
As she walked down the hospital corridors, a doctor came and walked by her side, holding a folder. Without looking to him, she says, "What do the tests show?"
"The malignant cancer is spreading drastically throughout his body," the physician replied, "In one or two weeks, he won't have the strength to move or respond. He'll be dead in another one or two weeks."
"Okay, thanks for the information," Dr. Megan said, without glancing at him straight int he face as she continued to walk.
"I really liked what you said to him," the physician said, looking down, and then back up, "I think it'll give him a streak of hope in his ordeal."
She stopped and looked at him. "I try to do what I can to make things more bearable for the young ones," she said, looking down, but then bringing her face to an equal level with the physician's, "I think that so long as we do what we can to alleviate their suffering, mental or physical, we are fulfilling our obligations as doctors."
"I think you're doing a good job with that," he said, glancing to his chart, "By the way, John Boils is waiting for you in room 113."
"Ah, yes," she said, almost sighing, "I remember him."
"Yeah, well, good luck with that," the physician said, leaving her. Megan continued to walk down the hallway, and entered the room number of her next patient. "Hey, John, how are we feeling today?" she asked.
Introducing John Boils. "You!" he said, "You're.... you're a fucking dinosaur."
"What makes you think that?" she said, sitting down comfortably, without much alarm.
"All of you," he said, "You're old and no longer need. Psychiatry has met its end." John Boils, diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, age 16, suffering from advanced stages of HIV infection. "Human emotion is simply a matter of chemicals. You're tired and want to sleep, take a sedative. You're tired and want to stay awake, take a stimulant. You're uninterested in and distracted from work, take an amphetamine. You're suffering from guilt, take a aminobenzoic. You've got alcohol for pleasure, marijuana for relaxing, psychedelics for personal exploration. In pain, then take some codeine. You don't feel the love, then take some goddamn MDMA. You need to stay up for seven days, then get some crystal meth. You want to have a load of fun, then get some fucking cocaine or heroin! With a pipe, a syringe, and a glass of water, you have all the tools you need to change human emotion! You become your own god!"
"John!" she said, "Calm yourself!"
"Yes, yes, that's right," he said, turning away for a minute, as though personally recognizing a fact by himself. "There are some things that you can't tell other people," he said, as he gently tapped his fist to the side of his head with his eyes closed.
"I made some new drawings," John said, turning back to his psychiatrist, and moving to the end of the bed in a crouching position, "Would you like to see them?"
"Sure, I'd love to," she said, taking notes on line, yellow paper. A smile lit up on John's face like a camping fire that was doused in gasoline.
"Here, here," he said, holding a pile of papers, "Look at these."
"Yes, I'm looking, John," she said.
He looked at the drawings again, and then back at her, and his smile sort of faded slightly into a grimace. "Yeah, maybe they're not so good," he said, discouraged.
"I didn't say that," she said.
"Yeah, I know, I did," he replied, "Look at those lines. They're wavy, not very straight, or properly proportional to real life circumstances." His fingers traced over the drawings, some of them just stick figures. "I know I can't draw very well and I'd appreciate it, Dr. Hopper, if you didn't criticize my drawings critically. I just think that, if I can do something that pleases me, I should do it no matter what anyone else thinks. Nobody stopped the clouds from inspiring them, when they weren't a good observer... ha, right?"
"That's a good point," she said, as she was watching him flip through the different pictures, "Wait, what's that picture?"
"Huh?" he said, glancing between the picture and her, "Oh, that!" It was a picture of a syringe, with the words, "They made me made me made me made me made me made me..." "You know," he said, "Darnedest thing... I didn't draw that one. Someone, in the hospital, gave that to me."
"Who gave that to you?" she asked.
"I don't know," he replied, "You pick. You're my psychiatrist. You should help me with lying."
"Well," she said with a secret smile, "Maybe you should pick someone who's liable to draw something with drugs."
"Yeah," he said, looking around the room erratically, "In a building that is basically a distribution center for licit and illicit substances... the possibilities are endless."
"Why did you draw that?" she asked him.
"Huh?" he said turning to her, "I told you! I didn't draw it!"
"Well, the person who did draw it," she said, "What do you think he was thinking?"
John cocked his head to the side, looking at the drawing, squinting, and wrapped a blanket around himself, as he was squatting at the edge of the bed. "I see someone who is afraid of what they have been through..." At this point, Megan would see herself as doing real psychiatry work. She was delving in and out of human emotion, learning about the experience of John, a sixteen year old mental patient. When the time was up, she left the room, and was ready to leave the hospital for the day. As she was leaving, she was met by the physician she conversed with earlier.
"Hey, how are you doing?" he said.
"I'm doing fine," she said, "Time to get off work and leave this place."
"Yeah, same here," he said, walking side by side with her.
"Why is John Boils in this hospital?" she asked, "It seems that he belongs in a mental institute."
"Yeah, that's what you and about five other psychiatrists said," he replied, "But he's in the late stages of AIDS. We expect he has less than six months left."
"Less than six months?" she said, turning to him, and then back to forwards, "I didn't know the disease had progressed that far. Hell, I'm surprised that he can get to the edge of the bed. He's too weak."
"I know," the physician said, walking by her side, "He's expressed a great deal of enthusiasm and strength. It may even put our perspective on the disease into question."
"Well, I wouldn't go that far," she said.
"By the way, my name is Doctor Tonkins," he said.
"Thanks for informing me," she said, "I assume you know that I'm Megan Hopper?"
"Yes," Doctor Tonkins replied, "We were all briefed on your employment at this hospital."
"Ah, I see," she said, as opened the front door, "Well, I'll be in tomorrow. I'll talk to you then, Doctor Tonkins." There was a friendly shake, and a departure. A turn of the key, and she was on her way back to her own apartment.
"Hey, I'm home," she said, entering the front door.
"Hey, honey," George said, as he stirred a pot of rice and put the lid back on, "How was work?"
"It was good," she said, "I met some of my patients today."
"How is the faculty staff taking to you?"
"Well, I met some of them for the first time today. Not many, though," she replied, "It seems I have a fan, Doctor Tonkins."
"Obviously a man with good taste," George replied.
"One of my patients has less than six months left to live," she said, standing next to George.
"I thought your specialty was dealing with underaged children who are about to pass on?" he said.
"Yeah, that's right, actually," she said, "But this one is a schizophrenic An extreme case of schizophrenia"
"Is that abnormal?" he asked.
"Yeah, it is, actually," she said, "I'm aware of all the general characteristics of mental diseases, but I rarely have any hands on contact with it."
"Even as a psychiatrist?" he asked.
"Yeah, even as a psychiatrist," she said, "Remember my specialty is helping children who are passing on to the next life."
"I suppose the allegorical question is this," he said, overlooking the stove, "How do you help someone who's already destined to doom?"
"Yeah," she said, "It is a tough question to answer. I suppose the simplest answer is best. I help children accept what they have to face. For as much as words can do, I ease their pains."
"Well, if you say so," he said, stirring some sauce in a pan, "I'm no psychologist. I'm just a biology professor."
She changed her position, leaning against the wall opposite of her lover. "Do you think that what I'm doing is right?" she asked him, with her arms folded.
"Do I?" he reasked the question, and turned around to look at her, "I know that you tell children that there is a heaven out there, a god waiting for them to make them feel better, to give them the afterlife that they never had. What do you want me to say about what you do?"
"I want to know if you feel that what I do is right or wrong."
"Why would you ask me?"
"Unlike a lot of other people, I'm close enough to you that I can trust you with these things," she said, "So many people talk shit about everything, and all your life you have to ignore those people. But, sometimes you don't know if they're just talking shit or if their arguments have any merit. I've been hurt too many times by those people to feel that I can trust them with something that is an intrinsic part of my life. But you, I can trust you. And I want you to tell me what you think."
They agreed to continue the conversation later. While in bed that night, she would be setting at the side of the bed, looking off in to the darkness of the night sky, while George laid down on the other side.
"I think that you're doing what is honestly good in your own heart," he said, "Do you doubt the goodness of your own acts?"
"Sometimes," she replied, "There is doubt, of course."
"Why?" he asked.
"Because I don't believe in an afterlife," she said.
The sun would fall, the moon would rise, and the stars would shine. If for only a few brief moments in all of eternity, Megan Hopper would sleep, experiencing for a few hours what her patients were predicted to experience forever.
"What about it scares you?" Megan asked.
"I... I won't be here any more," a bed-ridden child responded, "I won't be with my family. My mommy. My daddy. They'll be gone and far away from me."
"You shouldn't believe that," Megan said, holding her patient's hand, "You'll be in a place where you'll be surrounded by people that love you. With so many people caring about you, then you won't ever have to worry about anything."
"I think about what you're telling me," the patient said, "But, why... why does my life have to end so soon?"
Megan's hand tightened around the hand of her patient. "Maybe when this is over, you'll be able to tell us, because there are just some things that we just don't understand yet... but where you're going is a beautiful, wonderful place."
Her session ended with her current patient and she was eating lunch with some of her newly established colleagues, when...
"So, how are your patients doing?" Doctor Tonkins said.
"All of them seem to be steadily coming to grasp with the fact that they're dying and that they shouldn't be afraid," Megan said.
"Don't you think that there's a sort of problem with bringing the church in to the hospital?" one of her coworkers asked.
"Well, I wouldn't really call any of these ideas Christian," she replied, "They're about afterlife."
"And you wholeheartedly believe them enough to convince your patients of them?"
"Actually," she said, "I don't believe them."
"How can you tell your patients that, then?" Tonkins asked.
"It helps them slip away from this world," she said, "And.... into nothing, I suppose."
"You don't think that's unethical?" he asked her.
"Actually, I don't," she said, "I'm accomplishing one thing. I'm helping people cope with their own reality."
"By displaying a different reality for them?" one of her colleagues said, randomly poking her salad with a fork.
"It's not a different reality. It's a different to-be reality," she replied.
"What, then, happens to someone once they die?" another colleague asked.
"I guess.... they simply stop thinking," she replied, "They lose consciousness, just as they lose operation of other parts of their body upon death."
"Hey, Megan..." one of her other colleagues commanded her attention, "You have a new patient in ten minutes. You better eat up quick."
"Thanks, I appreciate it," she replied. It would only be moments for her before she was in the presence of her next, new patient.
"How do you feel?" she asked.
"I'm sick. And... I'm tired all the time," he replied.
"Charlie, how do you feel about life?" she asked.
"What do you mean?" he replied, "My life is going to end, and... I won't be here anymore."
"That's right," she replied, "You'll be somewhere else, Charlie. You'll be in a place where you're comforted and loved. You won't have to be afraid or --"
"No," Charlie said, "There's nothing beyond this. Once I die, I die, and everything for me ends."
"What makes you believe this?" she asked him.
"Why should I believe that I go some place when I die?" he asked her, "I die, then I die. It's death. Why do I go anywhere?"
"Because there's a place waiting for you, with kind and warm people, who want to take care of you and make you feel better," she replied.
"My parents want to make me feel better," the child said, "But, when I die, they can't do anything, because I'll be dead."
"But, when you die, you'll be a beautiful, wonderful place that is better," she said.
"No, there is no such place," Charlie replied, "I see no reason to believe it. I'm sorry for disagreeing, but.... I just don't believe what you believe."
She put her hand on his forearm. "Please," she said, "Think that when you die, you'll be better."
"Maybe that's true," he said, looking away, "Maybe it will be better than this."
She would exchange a farewell with her patient before leaving the room, and continuing down the hallway, where she saw Dr. Tonkins reading a clipboard. "Hey, Tonkins... how are you doing today?" she asked him.
"I'm doing fine," he replied, "Yourself?"
"One of my patients just doubted the afterlife to me," she said.
He met her eye to eye. "You should definitely have had others tell you the same, right?"
"Once before," she said, "And in that case, the child died a day or two after he told me this. I didn't have a second chance to see him after that."
"Ah, I'm sorry to hear that," he replied.
"No, don't be," she said, "It's my line of work, just like it is yours. I've learned to be comfortable with the idea."
"What do you plan to do with this new patient of yours, then?" the physician asked her.
"I'm not sure," she replied, "I'm not sure what I was going to do with my other patient who doubted me."
"You have John Boils in five minutes, by the way," he said, "Good luck with that."
"Thanks," she said, walking to his room.
"Hey, John," she said, "How are you doing today?"
"I'm doing fine, doing fine," he said, "Actually, I'm doing terrible. I have AIDS and I'm dying. How are you doing?"
"I'm fine, thanks," she said, "You understand that soon... you will be dead, right?"
"Yeah," he replied, "It's an inevitability."
"It must be so hard for you to let go of your life right when it's beginning," she told him.
"You see, you see, I've been thinking about that," John said, as his closed hand ran down the side of his face, "Everyone is already dead. It's just a matter of time. If someone is going to live to age 100, then by age 50, they're 50% dead. If you live to 80 years old, and you're only 30, that means, then.... that you're like, 35% or 40% dead, I don't know the specifics. Then, me, I'm gonna die in a few months. When I was ten years old, I was over half way dead. But now, I'm like, 95% dead! See, we were always dead, and as we grow older, we continue to die."
"John," she said, "Where do you think you'll go when --"
"I know what you're gonna say!" he interrupted, "I know what you're gonna say! You're gonna say that, the very few moments that a person lives for right before their death, they're possibly most alive in their heart and soul, and they must be, to make that transition from life to death. And, I've thought about it, too, yes, but... I'm not sure that such a position doesn't compromise scientific reasoning."
"Where do you think you'll go when you die?" she asked him.
"Huh?" he said, with a brief pause, "I expect I'll still be in the hospital, to be moved to the morgue, and then buried."
"You don't think that you'll ultimately have to face the option of heaven or hell?" she asked.
"Is the Catholic Church all of a sudden accepting female priests?" he asked, "No, I don't think so. I've been to the best places in my life and I've endured the worst hells. Once I die, it's gone. It's over. There is no god, pious people do not pass go and collect $200. It's over, they're fucked."
"That's a rather pessimistic view point," she said.
"Only if you're ignorant," he said.
"Are you a psychologist?" she asked.
"Have you died?" he asked, "Is that why you believe in an afterlife?"
"No, I haven't died, and my specific beliefs are irrelevant to this; it is my task to help you learn how to die," she asked.
"Your specific beliefs?" he questioned, "Ha! You don't even believe it yourself, but you use it as a shortcut to get your patients to turn into mental jerk offs!"
"What I do believe!" she started to get defensive, "Is that what I am doing is helping these people."
"I don't remember meeting anyone who was helped by being lied to," he replied, "Except when you say that Republicans are satanic. It keeps them away from Republicans, through lies. Now that you think of that, I bet you could just fabricate your own morality out of the air. It must be okay to tell people that heroin is made out of semen to keep them from snorting it! Unregistered handguns are made out of puppies! All pornography is printed on paper that is infected with HIV! By having sex before age 18, you lose the ability to orgasm ever again! If you don't read the Bible every week, you go blind! Everything in this world is full of some contaminant that will disgust, revolt, or otherwise damage! Be careful, because you aren't a god! You aren't a god!"
By the time John Boils had reached this point, Megan had called for hospital security to calm the overworked patient. She was surprised how energetic an AIDS patient could be. After two injections of sedatives, he calmed down, and passed into a blissful sleep.
She walked out of the room, covering her eyes. "What happened?" doctor Tonkins asked.
"I had an argument with John Boils," she said, "He become... overly agitated. I had to call security because he kept screaming."
"He is strong for someone in the latter stages of AIDS," he replied, "In a lot of ways, I bet he doesn't think he'll die."
"No, he does think he will die," she replied, "But, he doesn't believe in an afterlife. He doesn't believe in a god."
"Well, you've met someone who holds the same views as you do," he replied.
"But he doesn't believe that religion can be used as a method to help people slip away," she said, "He won't accept what I'm telling him."
"Would you?" her colleague asked.
"I don't think so," she said, "Anyway, I've got to go. I'll talk with you later."
"Have a good one, Doctor Hopper," he said.
She would drive home from work that day, thinking about John Boils. She dreaded seeing him again. It wasn't so much the fact that he was potentially aggressive and violent, or easily agitated. Rather, it was that her method of psychology was entirely ineffective towards him.
"How was your day, honey?" George asks, without turning around, as she walks through the door.
"It was hard," she said, "I had to call security on one of my patients because he was becoming aggressive."
"Ah, well, you're glad you didn't have my work," he replied, "An entire tank of hydrogen exploded, today. Nobody was injured, though. But, it does set us back a little ways in production."
"Things exploding tend to do that, whether it's a tank of hydrogen or a person," she said, "And we each had one of those today, I guess." Night would come and she would be asleep. The thoughts of her day, stirring and turning, twisting and burning, would not plague her now. And no dreams would come to visit.
Next day at the office, she requested to see her floor manager. "I don't want to treat John Boils any more," she said, leaning against the wall, "He's potentially violent."
"Yeah, I heard," her supervisor said, "But security took care of that."
"I don't feel safe with him," she said.
"Don't worry about that," the supervisor said, "If anything does happen, which I doubt it will, with someone in later stages of AIDS, there will be security to protect you."
"But, he's extremely difficult," Megan replied.
"Oh, so it's not the potential violence?" the supervisor said.
"Look," Megan said, with a sigh as though she were going to confess something, "John Boils undermines my ability to treat the psychological problems of these people."
"And now you look," the supervisor said, "You're new to this hospital. You have no seniority here. You don't have much ground to stand on. You have to continue treating John Boils. Is that understood?"
"Yes, sir," Megan replied.
"Okay, if you have any other problems, feel free to approach me," the supervisor said, disappearing back into his office. Later that day, she would be talking with John again.
"Hello, John," she said, almost receptively, as she closed the door to his room. She preferred entirely not to deal with him, but she knew her job entailed professional integrity, and she was going to stand by that integrity.
"Hi. Hi. Look, ummmmmm," he say, then looking away, but then turning to her face, "I'm sorry how I acted earlier, but, what I did, it wasn't wrong. I'm sorry, though."
"Do you think you need to apologize for things that aren't wrong?" she asked him, opening a pad of paper and taking out a pencil.
"No, no, I don't," he said, "I just, didn't want there to be bad feelings between us. That's not so wrong, is it?"
"No, it's not," she replied, "So, have you been thinking about anything lately that you want to talk to me about."
"I've been thinking about what you do," he said, "I think about all those children you probably lie to. You tell them that they're going to some place great and nice. But they're not. They're not going to some place great and safe. They're dying. They're going to a black, empty void."
"Is that your optimistic interpretation of death?" she asked.
"Don't be sarcastic," he replied, "Do you think that what you're doing is right?"
"Yes, I do," she said, "I think I'm helping some children die peacefully, happily."
"Okay, so you do some good," John said, "Some children you help to die in peace... some, still die in misery, irregardless. I suppose you do some good. Actually, you know what I have been thinking about lately... I've been thinking about sex. I mean, I've had it so many times when I was living on the streets, probably why I'm in the hospital now! Actually, no, that's probably from injecting. Yes! Injecting yes! Sex no!"
"John!" she shouted, "Calm down now!"
"Yes, yes, okay, okay, calm yes, calm yes...." he replied, calming his tone down, "I haven't had sex in so long, but when I had it, I had it so much." He flexed neck, left, and then right. "I feel like I'm dying," he said, "I can feel energy being sucked away from a near lifeless body. I mean, it's not that I'm pessimistic about leaving this place. I'm very ready to leave this world and enter the next world as lawn fertilizer, or food for grass, or maybe nutrients for a gigantic tree."
"You're not afraid of death?" she asked him.
"No, I'm not," he replied, "Of course, I'm criminally insane. That must mean that to be insane, you have to be unafraid of death! Say, you're... a psychiatrist, aren't you?"
"Yes, I am," she replied.
"Why are people afraid to die?" he asked.
"It's natural I suppose," she replied, "Plus, it's the ultimate fear, the sum of what other fears lead to."
"It's natural? That doesn't answer my question," he said, "Why is it natural?"
"Why do you think people are afraid to die?" she asked him.
"What? Did you just turn in to a bartender all of a sudden, and all I'm allowed to do is tell you about my life?" he asked, "Come on! Tell me why people are afraid to die!"
"It's fear of the unknown," she replied, "Fear that, maybe one day, you won't be able to feel, smell, taste, touch, and see. Fear that everything is for nothing."
"If people have a god, why are they still afraid to die?" he asked, "I mean, if death is only accompanied by an ascension to heaven, why are they afraid to go to that better place!?"
"Maybe they're more convinced by their natural environment, than by unnatural theology, that maybe their religion is wrong," she said, "Maybe instinct overcomes unreasonable convictions."
"Unreasonable convictions?" he said, "Heh, so you don't believe it either?"
"No, I don't," she replied, "But, I do believe it helps some people."
"Heh, here I am," he said, "I am condemned by the criminal justice system as insane. I don't believe in god and I say so. There you are, you don't believe in god, but you tell people they should."
"What do you think I should do?" she asked.
"Why not stop talking out your ass for once," he said.
"Can you please be respectful of others?" she asked.
"I've got how many months left to live?" he said, "Shouldn't I be a bitter motherfucker?"
"Your bitterness is noted," she said.
"You want to know why people are afraid to die?" he asked.
"Tell me why," she said, "I'm here to listen."
"People are afraid to die...." she said, "Because... They all think they're going to hell. They're stricken by guilt, and their own fear. By fear, they have committed sin -- and mortal sin is human inadequacy. The first thing that a person is thinking once they're dying is whether they're going to open their eyes one second and see one hundred foot flames enveloping them. They're afraid. Death is coming on to them and they think that by the time it's over, they'll wake up to a bed of fuckin' fire. Being too fat, being too stupid, being too arrogant, being too insolent, whatever.... By breaking the code of human nature. People think they are doomed to hell. People always think they are not good enough."
"You easily let your enthusiasm take a hold of you," she said to him.
"Well, I am crazy, right?" he said. By this time, she's realized a few things about him. He's not absolutely full of shit. Though he may be partly out of his mind, he is logical in creating some of his deductions. His idea about people being afraid of going to hell, though, she questioned, of course -- though it may have some merit. The term "misunderstood genius" might be accurately applied to John Boils if the term is changed to "psychotic wiseman."
"I have this one patient... Charles... He doesn't believe me when I tell him that he's going to die and go to a warm place," she said.
"He doesn't believe you for a very fucking good reason," he replied, "For example, there is no other place that is very warm once you die."
"What should I tell him?" she asked, "He is going to die soon, and he doesn't believe that he's going to a warm place. I've tried to tell him, but no, he won't listen. If he won't listen to that, what should I tell him?" She didn't want to be there to listen to him in the beginning, so she felt more comfortable with talking to him. In a way, she didn't feel that he was an actual patient, but someone she was treating with less rules, less regulations. She was willing to open up her ears to someone who would otherwise give her bad or violent advise.
"You should tell him that he's about to pass away from the world that he has always known," he told her, "Tell him that he is going to disappear from everything that he has known, that in a few months, he won't be able to sense or feel or think. In a few months, he won't be able to understand or question this. He'll be dead, and there'll be no way for him to question it. He just won't be capable of thought. Tell him that. Best way of convincing some way that they will die is telling them that they will shortly not be able to think or feel."
"But, he might just feel that it isn't enough to feel good about entering the next world," she said.
"What!? Are you a fucking god!?" he asked, "You're gonna fucking be dead just like that patient. Given enough time, you'll both be feeding words. What the hell do you want me to say?!"
"Please," she said to him, "Please, tell me what you think I should say to him so that he understands his own..... demise?"
"Tell him," a tear came to his eye as he started to talk, "Tell him, that the day comes, that he won't be able to think or feel, that he will simply be dead, unconscious, a black void."
"That sounds a bit depressing, don't you think?" she said.
"Of course it's depressing!" he replied, "But, if he starts crying or sobbing or moping or bopping.... tell him that at least he has a family that he can still love, and that he can die, knowing that they will remember."
"You think that would help?" she asked.
"I do," he replied.
A few more minutes would pass, and her session with him would be over. She would be walking down the aisle to her next patient, and she would find herself doing something she wasn't sure of: seriously considering John's suggestion. But, no, no, he's a mental patient, with insanity as his main dilemma. She couldn't and wouldn't consider his ideas.
"How are you feeling today?" she asked Charlie.
"I'm doing okay," he replied, "I'm still sick."
"Do you still feel that when you die, you will be completely alone?" she asked.
"No, I don't feel like I'll be completely alone," he replied, "I feel like once I'm dead, I won't be able to feel anything, that I will not be able to think."
"Why do you believe that?" she asked.
"Because, I don't see a reason why I would go to anywhere," he said, "I just die, and.... everything ends."
"What about an afterlife?" she asked him.
"I don't see it," he said, "I don't see it. It can't be real."
"Sometimes, things are real that we can't see," she replied.
"Well, I don't believe in it, because I just can't see there being anything after this," he said, "I can't believe it. I just can't."
"What do you want to believe?" she asked him, putting her hand on his.
"I don't want to believe anything," he said, "It's not that I'm afraid or anything..."
"Would you feel better if I told you that you're going to die and there was nothing to expect? Would that make you feel better?" she asked.
"Yes," he said, "Because I could believe you."
"If now is the only time that you'll be able to think about it, you should probably think about it in a positive light," she said. At this moment, she started considering John Boils and the things he said. "Maybe you should just feel happy that you have a warm, loving family now, and that you are going to be remembered by them."
She would help Charlie pass away, not by telling him that he was going to a wonderful place, as she has done all along. But, she helped him pass away from becoming comfortable with the ideas that he did believe. Charlie would die four weeks later. John Boils would be dead 6 weeks later. She continued to regularly treat each of them and she learned a great deal about John Boils. He had been homeless junk addict, using coke and heroin, since age twelve. One quarter of the time, she had to have security sedate him. Apparently, he had an abusive father, but a rather rich uncle, both of whom scorned him. When John Boils was prepared for funeral, his uncle had prepared a Catholic funeral for him, which he did not even attend. A few of his relatives did attend, though. When asked if she would like to say something, Megan Hopper stood up and said this: "John Boils was not a Catholic, nor a Christian, nor did he believe in god. When he was dying in his hospital bed, he knew very well that when he would die, he was going to lose consciousness, be at one with the universe. This is what he believed, and it should to be respected. He should be respected."