I will never forget him.

I will never forget the first time I walked into his room during morning report. Every surface was adorned by another bouquet. Wow, that’s a lot of flowers! A blonde-haired women — the patient’s wife — slept in the chair next to the bed. I turned to my patient to introduce myself.

“Good morning, Mr. Berg,” I said quietly, so as not to wake his wife. “My name is Ilana and I am going to be your nurse today. How are you feeling?”

Mr. Berg smiled warmly at me. “I’m feeling okay, dear. How are you feeling?”

And that, in a nutshell, was Mr. Berg. He never complained about anything and was always so much more concerned about everyone else. Even though he had liver cancer. Even though the doctors said he only had six weeks left to live. Even though his skin was jaundiced and his sclera were neon yellow. Even though no amount of moisturizer could relieve the itchy discomfort of his skin. Even though he was only 59 years old and knew he was about to die.

He was a big man, tall and well padded. He was a Conservative Jew, so family and food were prime parts of his life. Every day his wife and two daughters were at his side, with bags upon bags of homemade delicacies and more flowers to brighten his room. They took turns staying with him at night. There was always someone with him.

I knew that this was partly because they were all about family, but I also knew this was because of who Mr. Berg was. He was a kind, soft-spoken man with a big heart, who knew just what to say to lighten the mood when things became morose. He was adored by his family and seeing him suffer broke my heart.

One day I found his daughters sitting on the floor outside his room, quietly crying together. I sat down next to them to see if I could offer some comfort. They tried to talk, but in the end, it was easier to just cry. I felt their pain so acutely, now that I had gotten to know their dad. Every time I came into his room with medication or to collect a sample or to let him know the doctor was coming to see him, he always had a big smile on his face. He never expressed fear or discussed the fact that he was dying.

His room became my oasis — when I needed to get away for a minute from all the commotion on my unit, I’d slip into his room and find an excuse for my visit. Inevitably, his wife would be next to him, feeding him some broth or singing sweetly to him as he rested. They’d chat with me, ask me how my day was going, ask me about my husband and kids, act as if nothing scary were happening to them. They were a breath of fresh air. The irony was not lost on me.

The days turned into weeks, and I noticed that Mr. Berg’s mental capacity was declining. He had moments when the world seemed to fall away and he appeared lost in thought. Physically, he was weaker. He was retaining fluid and was too tired to get out of his bed and into a chair. I felt like his end was near.

The doctors decided it was time to discuss hospice care with his family. I knew it would be hard for them to hear the words, so I followed the oncologist into the room and tried to be there for moral support. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 565)