What can YOU say in six sentences?
The doctor who told my father he had incurable cancer spent 10 seconds delivering that news before leaving the examining room.
My father spent the next five months absorbing that fact, fading from a vigorous man capable of booming laughter to a wraith in a chair who stared into the middle distance.
"It was the diagnosis that killed him," my mother told me years later, "not the cancer itself."
I doubt that was exactly true, but I know my father well enough to believe that he would have lived longer if he had gone to the movies that day or to the new showing of Spanish impressionist painters at the Musee des Beaux Arts instead of to that oncologist. My father was lost to us -- to himself -- long before he stopped breathing.
In the last weeks of his life, I lay on my parents' bed and sang or read the newspaper aloud to him, feeling his fear like a cold, impenetrable wasteland around him.