Sunday, August 11, 2013

Departures And Arrivals

Thomas should have died long ago if not for a secret weapon.  Neither faithful medicines nor dedicated physician could battle the ravages of age and disease with the simple clarity of the love of his daughter.  Indeed, congestive heart failure and general frailty were no match for Leslie's unbending will.  She nursed him back from all exacerbations.  She slept by his side during every nursing home stay.  And she prepared his home triumphantly for each return to health even though he was getting sicker.

Her father's debility was in stark contrast to Leslie's own vigor.  She visited me occasionally for random colds and work related physicals.  Our contact was mostly limited to planning for the various hurdles her father was working to stumble over at any given time.  When it came to doctoring, he was my patient, she was more like a casual acquaintance.  Yet, as I was rounding the corner to enter Thomas's hospital room, it made perfect sense that the ER would call me.

There had been a car accident.  Leslie was in the emergency room. Dead.

lovely bit of purity deep inside became black and sullied in those few moments in which I told Thomas that Leslie was gone.  It is in times like these that even the most religious curse their beloved deity, the faithless beg for prayer, and the mighty stumble.

Thomas stumbled.

The blood drained from his face, and the butterfly of life fluttered away from the cocoon of his still moving body.  He continued to breath.  His heart continued it's marathon march.  But the runner had become shoeless.  He lost his soul.

I sat with Thomas many times over the next few days.  I had few words of solace. As I held his hands, I voiced the bizarre thought that kept charging through my mind.

This is just like Leslie.  She probably wanted to go first to make sure everything was prepared for your arrival. 

He chuckled.  It was the last sound I heard leave his lips.  He died in his sleep a few hours later.

I'm not sure I believe in such things as heaven and pearly gates, but I like to imagine Leslie was waiting there for Thomas with open arms.

Ready in death as she had been in life.

Welcoming him home.


Anonymous said...

Wow. I was really touched reading your account.

Jim Salwitz said...

Beautifully written. Powerful images.
Thank you very much.