Yesterday I wrote about hearing the news that a pro bono client of mine had suddenly taken a bad turn and the doctors suggested he didn't have much time left. Two states away, I struggled throughout the day with the mostly-irrational guilt that I wasn't able to go out and visit him. I wondered whether anyone would be able to see him, and I felt heartsick that it was possible that he could die feeling very alone.

I wrote to you late last night about my feelings on the topic. This morning I began calling the nurse who had contacted me yesterday. I tried several times for a couple of hours, but was never able to get through to her. I was hoping he would somehow make it a few more days so I could have the opportunity to say goodbye.

Finally someone answered the phone. I told the person who I was and asked for the status update of this man.

He died yesterday just after 5:00 PM. He was already gone when I wrote to you about him.

It was strange to hear the words, and I wasn't sure what I was supposed to say in response. Thank you? Ok? I appreciate the information?

I said none of those things. I just paused for a moment on the phone. And then I heard myself utter the only thing that felt appropriate in the moment: "I was really hoping you wouldn't say that."

The man on the other end of the phone responded, "I'm sorry. And I wish I had more details for you, but you'll want to talk to someone else who isn't available right now."

I asked the man on the phone if anyone had been able to see my client before he passed. He didn't know, but guessed that there may not have been visitors yesterday, since my client went so quickly after the first signs of the end showed that morning.

I hung up. There was nothing more to do for now. I texted my assistant so she would know and could pass the information on to a few others, in case they hadn't already heard.

And that was that.

I'll never forget him. I doubt he knew how much he touched my life and how much my opportunity to interact with him taught me. I wish I could tell him now. I can't. I was his attorney. But I am certain he did more for me than I ever did for him. And that feels strange.

~It Just Gets Stranger