In my mind’s eye I was taken in the spirit down a marble hallway aligned with brass plated elevators. From east to west they stretched for miles, like war horses preparing to march into battle. Only these machines were not for war. How I knew this remained a terrible mystery to me because after all, this was my first time traveling without a body so I had no idea what to expect. I drifted slowly, observing each monstrosity with terror hoping to find some sort of rhyme because reason eluded me. I noticed how there were no buttons to push or numbers illuminated above the brass frames. They stood silent and waiting, ready to open up at the whim of some hidden master engineer. I am sure this person was behind a computer screen watching my every move with laughter etched in an evil grin.
I continued down the corridor made of marble and stopped abruptly as the walls began to come alive. Ivy shoots split through them, sending out long fingers of green talons like asp’s out of nightmarish holes. They crawled upwards and overtook the ceiling with record speed. If it weren’t for the gong I never would have noticed doors opening towards the west. The sound emanating from the invisible instrument echoed down the hallway and rushed past me faster than light and shook whatever innards resided in this hollow thing I called a body. The ivy drifted down from above and struck out at me as if I offended it. Without hesitation I sprinted towards the opening of this great mystery, some black hole I had never imagined, or perhaps, one I never wanted to. Before I reached the cavity in the marble a long hand came forth from its’ empty darkness and beckoned me to take hold. I retracted mine once I touched the icy flesh. Death waited in this pit. Without a word the thing took its’ smoky finger and pressed a button only it could see. When I dared to, I stepped forward and asked this horror what harm it meant to cause me. What vendetta had it meant to fulfill?
I learned quickly this being had no talent for small talk so I remained hushed as we began to ascend. Several moments passed before the number eighteen lit up high above my head. I inquired of this kind spirit if this was the men’s department. Once the doors re-opened he roughly took me by the cloak and flung me out. I landed with a thud in front of two, massive white doors and looked about only to see people running to and fro in hospital scrubs. I came to the conclusion these were busy people. Important people. I remembered the proverbial cat that ventured too close to curiosity but decided to see what was on the other side regardless. I wanted to be with these people. I pulled the silver handle and swung the door wide and entered. A part o has never left.
Naturally all this ranting is nothing more than nonsensical balderdash. Truth based fiction trumped-up several degrees so you can get an idea of what was going through my mind the other day as I watched a family mourn the loss of a loved one. As I watched this sorrow unfold I thought back to the first day I started working in an I.C.U as a nurse assistant. The trepidation I felt on my way up the elevator was palpable because I had never dealt with sick people. I waited like a dope in my green scrubs like I had any inkling as to what the next four years of my life would bring. When I started out I was the man described above; confused, lost, curious, brave, and ready to take on the world.
But now I am tired. I have aged to the point where I don’t recognize the man in the bathroom mirror. I am full of vain answers to those with painful questions. You never realize how absolutely powerless you are until you witness someone dying in front of you. These finite hands of ours can only care so much, our words of comfort can only heal on the surface, our prayers are left in the winds, hoping the Lord leans over and maybe snatches a few out of the air. When you work in an atmosphere filled with suffering, a piece of you dies. When we go home for the night, a part of us stays behind and I don’t know if we ever get it back. But even if we don’t, I believe something else moves in to the vacant spot in our hearts making it whole again. Kindness. Goodness. Mercy. These come back ten-fold when we reach out to the broken. We earn the satisfaction in knowing we helped a fellow human through hard times. For me, I have learned to perceiver. I am beginning to understand the meaning of not giving up when the going gets tough. This place will break you, yet mold you at the same time into the people we are meant to be. When you stand above someone ready to walk towards the light always remember you are in a privileged position. When they look in your eyes they are counting on seeing someone who cares for them. For many, we are the last people they will see on this earth. As hard as it can be, it is not without honor.
All ye who enter here know this; sorrow will be found behind these doors. But take comfort, we are waiting here to help lift some of the burden. This is what we were made for. This is our testament to life.