The conversation with the old and sick man changed my life

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There are multiple reasons behind our life choice, where ideological reasons is one of the strongest driving forces for us to get to know the world, but there is also another reason to find alternative ways of living for me and I would like to share it with you.

More than ten years ago, I worked at a home service for elderly during the summers. Through this work I met many nice old people. However, one summer I heard about a really unpleasant man who had just become a customer of this municipal home care company. The man’s visits from the home care were on my schedule and I would get acquainted with him on my first day, which I didn’t look forward to.

It was a really angry and rude man I met when I stepped in to his spartan-furnished apartment and I knew at once that it would not be an easy task to try to help him in his plight. Our first meeting was short and I did what I could. I left the apartment after hearing a number of taunts about everything from the home care staff to medical doctors. However, I had noticed a few strange, very decorative masks hanging on the wall in the otherwise bare apartment, On my next visit to the angry man I asked him where these masks was coming from and how he got them in his possession. I do not know why he chose to open up to me, but my question got him to slowly open up and over the coming weeks we would talk a lot about how his life had been, but especially about his dreams.

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It was an angry and frustrated man who told me how his life had taken shape because of the choices he made in his life. He had a very nice job, where he spent a lot of time working at the expense of spending time with his family, especially his children, and exploring the world. His work had made it possible for him to travel around the world, but he had not seen much more than what he could see from any of the hotel rooms he visited. He had postponed all his dreams to after his retirement. After a failed marriage and poor contact with his children his goal for the pension was to finally travel and see the world. It was now at the age of 65 that he would get the reward of all these hard years. His home was sold, he had an extensive travel fund and the flight tickets was booked for a trip around the world. A few weeks before the planned departure, signals from his body made him seek medical care. The diagnosis was a late stage terminal cancer.

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Sadly no Kilimanjaro for the old man.

Instead of sitting on a plane to begin his journey of his dream, he was now sitting with the Swedish palliative care. Instead of walking up on Kilimanjaro, he now had to walk up some stairs in an apartment complex and sit in an apartment with things bought in panic to solely live for a few more months. It was a very angry and sad man who wistfully told me of his dreams and what he should have done with his life instead. The only thing I could do was sit on his kitchen chair, listen to him and learn from his story.

My summer job at the home service ended and I brought the conversations with the man back with me to my studies in Linköping, but now I had new eyes on life. Three weeks later I saw his obituary in the local newspaper and I knew then that I didn’t want to live my life like his.

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