Almost all these patients had known, for some time, that they had a terminal condition. Yet they-along with their families and doctors-were unprepared for the final stage. “We are having more conversation now about what patients want for the end of their life, by far, than they have had in all their lives to this point,” my friend said. “The problem is that’s way too late.” In 2008, the national Coping with Cancer project published a study showing that terminally ill cancer patients who were put on a mechanical ventilator, given electrical defibrillation or chest compressions, or admitted, near death, to intensive care had a substantially worse quality of life in their last week than those who received no such interventions. And, six months after their death, their caregivers were three times as likely to suffer major depression. Spending one’s final days in an I.C.U. because of terminal illness is for most people a kind of failure. You lie on a ventilator, your every organ shutting down, your mind teetering on delirium and permanently beyond realizing that you will never leave this borrowed, fluorescent place. The end comes with no chance for you to have said goodbye or “It’s O.K.” or “I’m sorry” or “I love you.”
La douleur exquise: The heart-wrenching pain of wanting someone you can’t have. Chômer: To be unemployed, but because it’s a verb, it makes the state active. Profiter: To make the most of or take advantage of. Flâneur: As defined in the book Elegant Wits and Grand Horizontals, it’s “the deliberately aimless pedestrian, unencumbered by any obligation or sense of urgency, who, being French and therefore frugal, wastes nothing, including his time which he spends with the leisurely discrimination of a gourmet, savoring the multiple flavors of his city.” Esprit d’escalier: The literal translation is staircase wit, but it means to think of a comeback when it’s too late. Retrouvailles: The happiness of meeting again after a long time. Sortable: An adjective for someone you can take anywhere without being embarrassed. Voila/voici: It’s so necessary that we use it all the time. “Voila” literally means “there it is” and “voici means “here it is.” Empêchement: An unexpected last-minute change of plans. A great excuse without having to be specific.