Last night I went travelling, and when I looked around, I found myself in some sort of dormitory-type homeless shelter: a huge room with steel-blue synthetic carpet of the easy-clean variety, single beds everywhere in rows with a small three-drawer cabinet next to them, and a kitchenette at the very end of the hall furthest from the entrance. In one of the beds that were closer to the kitchenette (and thus, more sheltered from the world) was a person who in the dream was a friend of mine, but looked like an older, thinner, sicker, more bearded version of the New Zealand actor Roger Oakley.
In the dream I knew he was dying of liver cancer, and in fact his skin had that same deep orange-brown colour that my father's skin had when he was dying of liver cancer many, many years ago, a colour that still makes me cringe when I see outdoor advertisements on TV or billboards done by pretty young models who have been spray-tanned with exactly that shade in an effort to look "healthy", which has only resulted in them looking as if they are close to death from liver failure.
And I knew he was dying. I have seen the image of energy of impending death occasionally: it looks nothing like a ferryman or a hooded guy with a scythe, but it is irremediably what it is. And death was with him. It was only a matter of time. He was bedridden, drifting in and out of consciousness, and muttering occasionally. I had a great deal of concern and compassion for him (after all, in the dream he was a friend), so I took off my shoes and, fully-clothed, slipped into the narrow bed beside him. He was lying up in a foetal position, and I curled up around him, resting my arm lightly on his hip. Through his many layers of clothes I could feel the pointy ends of his bones, and I could feel the coldness of his flesh despite a lot of clothes and bedclothes. I was happy to share my healthy warmth.
I passed the time by dozing, waking every so often to check on him. Over a very long time he drifted further and further away from life, rousing and muttering less often, weeping for painkillers less often, even moving slightly in the bed less often. He became colder, but I knew he felt my warmth and was grateful for it. I was the only person who was prepared to give him the closeness he needed on this last, most important journey of his life.
And when it was over and I woke up out of the dream, I knew what I must do. I've been getting hint after hint for decades, but the pressure is really piling on, now.