I met this beautiful woman the other day. She had a sad, glowing smile, was dressed impeccably, and had this wonderful accent. I imagined her voice would be at home in some small corner of Europe where the pastries are always fresh, the coffee fragrant. She was sitting in a chair next to man, or what used to be a man. He lay stiffly in a bed like a bundle of fallen sticks—one of the sticks was being held gently by the beautiful woman, his wife. The room was too big for them, the high ceiling and white walls almost deafeningly empty.

They belonged to another time, this couple. The light poured through the window, stopped by a single IV pole which left a long, thin shadow on the wall, like a tree in winter. I pictured them in a different light, one a little richer, maybe browner, the colors subdued but present, not washed out like this day. They must have held hands then, too, but less delicately, with less fear. The young doctors stood by, also dwarfed by the room, but somehow less out of place. It’s not just that they were doctors, and this a hospital—they were more a part of this life, this place, this time. They were near the beginning and middle of their journeys, not the end. It was palpable. They thought, “where might I be tomorrow? In bed yet? Answering a call? Drinking?” The questions hanging over the couple in the room were, “Will I be tomorrow? Are there any left? Why?”

It’s strange—to be in the middle point of my own journey, surrounded by people nearly at the end, or perhaps past the end. Some live for the moment, never thinking it will end. Some mourn for the sepia-past that never was. But mostly I think they just cling to each other and to the moments, waiting, unsure, and watching as we middle-folk go about as if there will always be another day, another cup of coffee, another kiss.

20 thoughts on “Journeys

  1. But mostly I think they just cling to each other and to the moments, waiting, unsure, and watching as we middle-folk go about as if there will always be another day, another cup of coffee, another kiss.

    And there will. Maybe not mine, maybe not yours — but tonight when you look at your sleeping daughter, remember that there will.

  2. I was getting ready to post a comment, but then saw CPP already said what I wanted to. Minus the expletive.

    Which expletive did CPP leave out?

  3. It’s good to know that physicians think in these terms. Sometimes those of us on the receiving end of your talents see you as clinical professionals who rarely reflect on the lives they impact. You simply blew that image out of the water and that’s a good thing.
    – Suzanne

  4. I spent two months at the side of my closest friend, thinking about our tomorrows. It was a tough case, but she kept getting better. One more week, maybe two, and she would have been out, ready to start living again.
    And about a week ago, the tomorrows disappeared.

  5. Matthew, been there done that. Lost one of my friends last year at the ripe old age of 47. But in this case (my friends) it was entirely unexpected.

  6. Thanks for this reflection, Pal. I wonder from time to time about the emotional impact of outliving most of peers, spouse, siblings, sometimes even children, even as one is expending considerable effort it must take to keep pace with the world and all of its technological, social, and political states of being. It must be increasingly difficult not to feel like an anachronism. As the mother of two very hip, connected elementary school students, however, I’m already having trouble keeping up with the trends, and I know my own obsolescence is inevitable at some point.
    I have written before about serving as a genetic conduit between generations, but I find it equally important to help keep the older members of my family connected to the ‘now’, and feeling as relevant as possible in this fast-paced world, because one day, way before i’m ready for it, that’s going to be me. Life is short. Damn short.

  7. Well-written.
    We are all on that conveyor belt that leads to the graveyard.
    No getting off, no going back.
    Best to live the best life you can, while you can.

  8. There is an expectancy to life that measures the relative values of our futures, and when that measurement lessens, the present gains in value. It’s not that we of a certain age never think about the end – it’s because for all intents and purposes, the future is here and now.

  9. Big sigh.

    Forty-eight year old brother in ICU struggles for his future; hour by hour.

    Stunning writing-again; many thanks.

Comments are closed.