Three days previous, he'd been at work, speaking with clients on the phone, when he began experiencing stomach pains. As his shift progressed, the pain increased to the point where he could not continue, nor could he drive himself home. He called his wife, who retrieved him and deposited him in his bed at home before returning to work herself.
Later that evening, the pain dissipated and my friend began to believe that whatever he had experienced --stomach flu, indigestion --was over. But it was a false reprieve. The next day the pain came back, magnified. My friend suffered severe stomach pains and an inability to keep down any food. He vomited up everything he tried to ingest. Even water.
My friend is a tough guy and he attempted to tough it out. But after three and a half days, with no abatement in symptoms, his wife insisted that they go to the Emergency Room. "It's not getting better," she said. "We've got to go."
He was diagnosed with an extreme case of diverticulitis --a violent inflammation of the intestinal wall. A cyst had formed on his bowel, become infected, and ruptured. Oxygen and fecal matter were leaking into his body cavity. His lower intestinal track had shut down completely.
That night, in the hospital, when his faithful wife dozed off in the chair next to his bed, my friend supposed it might be the last time he would ever speak to her.
Eventually, the doctors were able to get the situation under control and my friend's condition stabilized and then improved. He spent two weeks in the hospital before being released. In that time, he lost 38 pounds. His recovery was complicated by a severe gout attack. Had he gone untreated for much longer, his chances of survival were very slim.
A rough road, to say the least.
As I mentioned, the subject of this tale is one of my oldest and dearest friends and for a long, bewildering moment, he stood at the edge of the cliff. As he related the story to me the other night I was reminded again of the constant presence of that dark, solemn figure.
The Reaper looms.
I think it is wise never to forget that.