Over the past month, he had been struggling with acute pneumonia, along with other attendant complications. Sometime after the end of the first semester, he complained about difficulty breathing. He tried to manage on his own but he finally asked to be taken to the hospital on October 29.
I was with him that first day, just after he was admitted. The doctors had him on oxygen. He was gasping through his mask, taking the air in gulps but unable to hold it in. Cheerful Carlo, an awkward smile was on his face, as if embarrassed to be seen that way. But I thought I saw a fey look in his eyes that time. It was as if he knew what was coming. It made me uncomfortable. I broke it off with a brusque snarl: "Stop it, you idiot! You're going to pull through."
The second time I saw him, he was in the ICU. It was November 1. I brought Fr. Dan to administer the Anointing of the Sick. Carlo looked a little better, and he was no longer gasping for breath. Fr. Dan and I didn't stay long, the poor fellow needed his rest. I thought we had made a clean and perfect exit so I lost a bit of poise when I had to rush back to the ICU to retrieve the ciborium which we thought we had forgotten (of all the things to forget!) It turned out it was with Fr. Dan all along. The look of puzzlement on Carlo's face on my sudden return, though, was priceless.
The last time I saw Carlo, it was a week later, and he had moved to another hospital. He was out of the ICU, breathing better though still with a mask. I brought him his special request: a bowl of Chow King congee with century egg. The first thing he said to me when I got there was: "I should be back at work next week. I'll be out soon."
"Whoa, whoa! Are you playing doctor now?" I said. "Isn't that how you got into this mess in the first place? Get better first, then we can talk about you getting back in the classroom. That's an order."
Yeah, I'm a badass assistant dean.
And that was it. The last time I saw him. I heard he had been discharged from the hospital and was back home, a good sign. Then Thursday last week, I heard he was back again. From there on, things got worse fast. By Monday, he had entered a coma and was on life support.
I pushed away all thoughts of visiting him. I didn't think I could bear to see him hooked up like that, in that nether state between life and death. Some badass assistant dean I am.
Today the office is in grief and we -- teachers and students -- are in mourning. The students put up a hashtag, #SirBambiMoments, to remember the happier times with Carlo. They spoke of his cheerful demeanor, his long exams, his life stories, his passion for spaghetti and champorado, and of a planned trip to Vikings that now never will take place.
That's all we really have to hold on to now, isn't it? Just the moments.