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When the Phone Rings at Night


“I’m at the hospital,” my mother said.”Talk to the neurosurgeon.”

The ringing phone had roused me out of a deep sleep. Already, my heart was racing, and I was wide awake as the doctor began to speak.


“Your father has had a massive hemorrhage on the left side of his brain. It is non-operable, and he will not survive,” the neurosurgeon said matter-of-factly. The news didn’t quite sink in.

It was the Thursday after Father’s Day, and I had just spoken with my dad over the weekend, having no idea then that it would be our last conversation. “Hi, Sar,” he had said, chipper with excitement. I don’t remember what we talked about, but now I could hear his voice resonating in my head.

“We have placed your father on life support. You need to come today if you want to see him,” the neurosurgeon said. My mind had already switched into autopilot mode. How am I going to arrange that? I live 700 miles away, and I have to go to work today!

Somehow, I made it to his bedside by 3 a.m. the next night. I didn’t want to see my father with a breathing tube in his mouth. So I waited outside in the hallway until after the nurse had removed the tube,  then went into the room where my mother and brother and husband stood by my father’s side. I went to his bedside and touched his hand for the last time. It was warm, as though my father were still alive; I closed my eyes and imagined his hearty laugh and playful grin.

I will always remember the nurse, though I do not know his name. He held my father’s hand and listened to his chest as my father’s heartbeat slowed and ultimately stopped. I am grateful for his compassion and respect for my father and for us.

Sara Cohen
New York, New York