Mehmet’s presence

Christiana White
3 min readApr 13, 2022
Photo by Meriç Dağlı on Unsplash

Victor left this earth on the last day of June last year. He was alone, or no, not alone. He was with Mehmet, the gentle and deeply caring male nurse, former kickboxing champion of Turkey, and devout Muslim, that had been hired to help care for Victor in his sister’s home in Karaköy, Istanbul.

Mehmet protected Victor’s dignity. His mere presence placed a cushion around Victor that no one could trespass or dislodge. His ablutions five times a day, his recurring act of pressing his palms and forehead to the living room floor, brought a cadence of dignity and calm, and a kind of seriousness befitting the situation.

He spoke no English, but he and I discovered we could communicate via text message using Google translate. He sent me beautiful photos of Victor after I returned to California. Victor sitting beside the window with seagulls on the ledge. Victor draped in a blanket. Victor producing a wan smile. And toward the bitter end, painful photos of Victor incredibly gaunt, a mere skull floating.

It was only Mehmet at the end, as I’ve said. Victor, incredibly, decided the day before his death that if his son and granddaughter wouldn’t come to him, he would go to them. And go he did. He requested and was granted an ambulance to drive four hours south to a friend’s house on the coast, near his son’s house. He left his sister and her husband and the lovely Seycan, the housekeeper who was devoted to Victor, to stay in an empty house in hopes his son and granddaughter would visit.

He managed to survive the journey which couldn’t have been pleasant in his condition. It soothes me to know he at least had Mehmet with him, and I know Mehmet did everything in his power to help Victor withstand the trauma. He got there alive, and he survived long enough to receive his son who stopped by. But, then the son left. And the granddaughter never came.

And Victor waited. And Mehmet waited with him. And then Victor died, with Mehmet at his side. Mehmet texted me that the son was inhumane, that he’d never witnessed such inhumanity in his lifetime. I can imagine it. I know the guy. I know the way he laughed, his discomfort, his inability to be real, to connect, or be present. The way everything was a joke.

At the memorial we held a few months later in Oakland, Victor’s dear friend Bob approached me where I stood by the railing above the water. He asked me who was with Victor when he died. Bob meant, did Victor die without friends or family? When I said that yes, unfortunately, Victor died alone, Bob visibly and deeply winced.

But I must correct the record, and assuage Bob’s pain. Victor did not die alone. Far from it. It’s quite possible — it would not surprise me in the least — if Mehmet’s presence at the time of Victor’s passing into the next world was the most perfect one possible, a radiant love channeled through Mehmet from the divine.

Christiana White

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