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    Last night I watched someone die. No, last night I helped someone die. It wasn't like euthanasia or anything; it was my brother-in-law Ray. Got a phone call from Melanie, my youngest sister just before midnight.
    "It's Ray." I heard her swallow a sob. "He won't die."
    Yeah right I thought. Ray and I had never been close, never been buddies like some guys are with their sister's husband. He’d been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer about nine months ago.
    "The doctor thinks that maybe he's waiting to see someone before … before he goes." Mel went on, "Perhaps he wants to see you Jim, maybe to apologise and to say he's sorry. Will you come to the hospital now … please."
    I love my kid sister very much. We grew very close over the years, especially after our folks were both killed in a car smash. "Sure sis I'm on my way."
    She gave a sigh of relief into the phone. "Thanks Come quickly please."
    I put the phone down and locked up.
    Driving to the hospital my thoughts went back to the time when Mel and Ray started dating. Even then the signs were obvious. They seemed happy enough during the week when he used to call on her at our house almost every night. At that time it was only weekends that things were different. Ray used to drink a lot over weekends.
    Friday evenings Mel would sit in the lounge all dressed up, ready to go and waiting for him. Every time she heard a car engine she'd jump up and part the drapes, squinting out into the darkness then slump down again in her chair.
    Mom would grimace and dad would look at her over his newspaper and shake his head. "Why do you let him do this to you Mel?" he'd ask.
    "I love him dad." was Mel's standard reply.
    Then came the day that Mel announced that she and Ray were engaged to be married.
    "Over my dead body." dad said.
    "God help us." mom said.
    "Fuck me." was my only observation.
    "If you don't let me marry him I'll just wait until I'm twenty one." Mel said, using the same argument a gazillion other girls had through the ages. "Then you'll have no say."
    "Why him Mel?" mom asked, her eyes troubled. "Why do you want to marry him? There are any number of nice boys who like you."
    "Oh they're all nerds" Mel said dismissively. "'Rays a real man. I'm not interested in nerds thank you."
    Then in the early hours one Sunday morning a few weeks before the wedding, Mel came into my bedroom and shook me awake. I switched on the bedside lamp and when I saw the purple bruise just below her left eye, I felt angrier than I'd ever felt in my life. She was crying, her whole body wracked by sobs.
    "Ray did this." I said accusingly.
    "No Jim …."
    "Don't lie to me Mel. Jesus I know it was Ray."
    "No … I…"
    "I'm gonna kill the fucker." I spat
    "No you're not." She weakly tried to push me back onto the bed. "What am I going to tell dad?"
    "Jesus sis you've gotta call off this wedding. For Christ's sake if he's doing this now, what's going to happen when you're married?"
    "I love him Jim … I love him."
    Next day when our folks asked her about the bruise she made some lame excuse about someone slamming a car door against her face by mistake. But mom and dad weren't fooled even though they said nothing.
    So Mel married Ray and his drinking problem got worse and they had two kids and his drinking got way beyond worse. They moved house a lot cos Ray couldn't hold down a job for long. Mel worked in a bank and earned quite a good salary at the time, so as soon as the kids were old enough she had to go back to work so they could make ends meet.
    One night, she told me later, when Ray was drunk and she wouldn't give him any more money, he picked up their month old daughter and held her out the second floor window by her arm, threatening to drop the infant unless she gave him some cash.
    Another thing he did was to wake her at about one or two o'clock in the morning and demand that she make him steak, eggs and fries or he'd beat her up. Most times she said, when she got back to the bedroom with the food he was fast asleep.
    When their son was ten and their daughter eight, Mel at last decided she'd had enough of Ray. She phoned me at five one morning and asked me if I would come and fetch her and the kids.
    When I arrived Ray was standing in the front garden. He was a big man, his head seemingly attached to his shoulders without a neck. He stood with legs astride so that he wouldn't fall over he was that drunk. In his right hand he held a length of garden hose about a metre long.
    I walked up the path, my gazed fixed on Mel and the two kids who stood in the open doorway wide-eyed and afraid.
    "You boy, whatcha want?" Ray asked, his speech slurred. Ever since we'd met he'd called me boy … never Jim.
    I stopped a few paces from him. "I've come to fetch Mel and the kids Ray. I'm not leaving here without them."
    "Melandthekidsh. No …" He raised the piece of hose and took a swing at me. .
    I took a step forward and easily pushed him aside. He was so drunk that he just fell over onto his side, his head thudding into the dew-damp grass. Mel and the children scampered down the path towards me. I went to the front door where their two suitcases stood. Once they were in the car I drove off, the kids peering out of the rear window at their drunk father who now was struggling to his feet. I took them to one of Mel's close friends who'd agreed to put them up for a while then I drove home.
    Ray phoned me almost every day demanding to know what I'd done with his wife and kids. He was usually so pissed that it was with great difficulty that I could understand what he was saying. Mel also phoned me a few times to say that she and the kids were fine and that she's seen a lawyer to start divorce proceedings.
    I think it was about three weeks later, a Saturday afternoon, when I answered my doorbell and found Mel, the kids and Ray there. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. They were all smiling and had their arms around each other and my heart sank because I knew he'd somehow conned my sister into taking him back.
    When I got the chance to speak to Mel alone she said: "Ray has promised to change. He swears he going to stop his drinking and start looking for a job."
    "Yeah right and my ass is a chicken." I said cynically.
    They left and I never heard anything from Mel for over a six months, which was long for my little sister. I figured that either Ray had kept his promise, which I seriously doubted, or else Mel thought I'd be very angry if she phoned me again to ask me to fetch her one more time.
    Then out the blue one day she phoned and asked if she could come and see me. We sat side by side on a couch in my living room and I waited for her to tell me what Ray had done this time. At least there were no visible bruises on her. Mel looked at me and I was surprised to see tears in her eyes.
    "What's up Mel?" I asked in concern. "Ray been beating you again?
    She shook her head and took a hopelessly inadequate tissue out her bag. I handed her a man size one from my own pocket.
    "Rays dying Jim." She wiped her eyes and blew her nose and I held her close and she started crying again.
    Now it was eight and bit months later and I was walking into a hospital to help a man die. I closed the door of the private ward behind me. A skeleton lay in the bed, the oxygen mask almost completely obscuring its face. Mel sat on the one side holding Ray's emaciated hand in both hers. A uniformed nurse stood on the other side holding his wrist in her right hand and staring at the watch on her left wrist.
    I stood next to Mel and looked across at the nurse who almost imperceptibility shook her head. Mel looked up at me and smiled her thanks.
    "Ray," she said loudly, “Jim’s here to see you."
    The skeleton opened its eyes. I moved closer and bent over him. Slowly Ray disengaged his hand from Mel's grasp and raised it until his ridiculously thin fingers closed around the front of my shirt. It seems as if he was trying to pull me closer. His lips moved and it was clear he wanted to speak. The nurse leant forward and pulled the oxygen mask down off his face. I bent down until my ear was almost against his lips, trying not to wrinkle my nose at the smell of death that emanated from him. His breath was like a feather against my ear and I heard the words clearly as if he were in my mind.
    "Fuck … you … boy."
    His hand slipped off my shirt-front and I straightened up. Rays eyes closed and the nurse released his wrist and it dropped to the bed. She took the stethoscope out her ears and turned away.
    Mel looked up at me, her cheeks damp with tears. "Thank you Jim." she said softly, her small hand slipping into mine. "What did he say to you?"
    I gazed down at my little sister whom I loved so much and who would need my love even more now. I'd never lied to Mel before but I knew I had to now.
    "I'm not sure sis," I said squeezing her hand, "I think it might have been ... "Love Mel boy."
    "The embers of our past lives lie smouldering within us awaiting the winds of remembrance to fan them in flames of reality." Dax.

    I'm a heart surgeon and these types of incidents happen in our field a lot because we save lives but we can't save those whose destiny is not with them. Life is in the hands of God.

    I come prepared with the white suit and stethoscope,
    Listen to your heartbeat, delete beep beep BEEP.
    Your insurance is high, but my price is cheap.

    ~ Kool Keith


      I'm also a heart surgeon, and I think Ray might have been a dick head


        Next time you hose his sis, get her from behind pulling her hair a bit, smack her on the ass and raise that hand up and flip Ray the bird LOL!
        mother moon -she's calling me back to her silver womb,
        father of creation -takes me from my stolen tomb
        seventh-advent unicorn is waiting in the skies,
        a symptom of the universe, a love that never dies!


          I'm a Shintopath heart surgeon who removes hearts of stone and replaces them with decent immaculate hearts of the Blessed Virgin Mussolini.

          It sounds like Ray was an asshole but God made him that way. At least he had the courage to be hot or cold up to the very end, not lukewarm, even when facing certain death, and that trait has redeemable qualities.

          Oh wise, glorious, and ever blessed Virgin Mussolini, accept Ray (another total asshole) to yours , Rachel's, and Nafisa Joseph's bosom, intoxicate, anesthesize, soothe, and make him euphoric, then place his soul in a cocoon to be transformed into a new creation.

          May he have the purity of an Angel , always laughing hysterically from Fascist laughing gas attacks, and be more altruistic than Saint Francis, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and Gandhi combined. Then may he help me on the journey to enlightened righteousness. All things are possible with Mussolini and the Capitol hill Queens, Rebecca, and Amaterasu, whom God has handed over his household and possessions to.

          ​​​​​​In Jesus name I pray, Amen!

          No need to worry yourself any longer. The soul of Ray is in good hands!