During the years of my time,
I have heard life described in many ways.
I have heard the phrase,
“Life is like a play and there is only one performance”,
and, of course, the ever-popular phrase
from the movie, Forest Gump,
“Life is like a box of chocolates;
you never know what you’re going to get”.
However, there is one philosophy to which I relate,
more than I do to any of the others,
and that philosophy and its implications
can be summarized in one sentence.
“Life is like a book.”
I have come to realize that each day that we live,
we add a few paragraphs to our life’s story,
and with the culmination of each individual year,
we also conclude, yet, another chapter.
If we as a people were to read one
another’s books, we would discover
that many of the tales that are told, bear striking similarities.
The few paragraphs below tell a tale
to which many people will relate
in some fashion or form,
while others have yet to see this time arrive.
Sadly, most of you will experience chapters
in your own lives that are similar to these,
and when that page in your book has been turned,
it is my hope that you will find courage
and strength in the knowledge,
that the events of that day are happenings
that are common to all of mankind.
Join me if you will,
and allow me to share a portion
of the book of my life, with you.
The events described herein,
actually happened and were duly noted,
within a few hours,
though it has taken three years
to take the notes and turn them into
what you are about to read..
So, come and follow these words if you will.
************************************************************************ The Visit
The clear, cold morning bore silent witness
to the beginning of an incredibly painful day.
I had received a call,
that my mother was very ill,
and that I should come quickly.
With disgust at myself,
I thought back to the many phone
conversations in the past few years
and how Mom would say,
“ Son, you need to come see your poor old Mom.
You know I’m not going to be here forever.”
Guilt overwhelmed me;
I was always so busy with work and my own life.
There were hundreds of reasons why I didn’t go,
but ironically, I now saw those same reasons
as being excuses.
Nevertheless, it had come to this,
and this time, no reason,
nor excuse, could prevent me.
I woke my wife and told her
of Mom’s condition,
and that we would have to make a trip
that I had dreaded for about a year now.
I knew that Mom was not in the best of health,
but I kept lying to myself in thinking
that everything would be all right.
Hurriedly dressing, my wife and I prepared for the visit.
My tattered emotions ran amuck,
with lows that resembled the blackest of nights.
The few highs of the past couple of weeks
were now replaced with bitter anger.
Lord, oh, Lord, I thought,
how can I deal with this,
let alone survive without an everlasting guilt?
My eyes were now burning from the hot,
salty tears that had formed small pools
in the corners of my eyes.
They came as if from a never-ending spring,
at times, cascading down my face
in fierce moving torrents.
I looked helplessly to my wife,
who held out arms of comfort
offering love’s tender embrace.
she, in all of her compassion took me
to her bosom and held me close.
The time had now arrived, and the visit was at hand.
Slowly, and with small deliberate steps,
we walked to our car
without speaking a single word.
Life continued as usual around us,
evident in the sounds of children playing
while waiting on their school bus,
also evident in the sight of
the to and fro of traffic carrying their owners
to different destinations.
Opening the car door for my wife,
I attempted to give her a smile,
while at the same time
I desperately tried to suppress the urge to scream
and shake my fist in anger at the sky.
We entered into the stream of traffic blending in with vehicles that carried people that had no
clue to the chapter that was now
being written in my life.
Its funny I thought, here everyone goes,
each bustling off to his own destination,
I with my problems that were so difficult
for me to face, but what of theirs?
Are we such strangers in this world?
I quickly shunned that thought
and settled in for the trip.
It was only an hour ride,
but it seemed like an eternity.
I looked out the side glass in mute silence
and watched the landscape streak by,
dressed in its winter browns.
Leah, my wife said nothing,
as we made our way,
for she knew what I would be facing
and was my vanguard.
Finally, we arrived,
and I felt our vehicle come to a stop.
I listened as the roar of the engine fell silent.
This jarred me somewhat,
back into the cold reality of reason.
In front of us stood a large black sign,
that bore the words, Visitors Parking,
and underneath it, another sign,
Emergency Room Entrance Only.
Small white arrows pointed out the way.
I stood there overlooking the campus,
silently questioning myself. Can I do this?
Can I fake control?
thoughts of childhood slammed into
me bringing to the surface of my mind,
a flood of memories
that had long ago been forgotten.
How deceitful memories can be!
Those little pleasantries that had,
at one time, brought comfort,
now impaled me with grief.
What once had been sweet recollections
now ravaged my soul with guilt.
I watched a multitude of unsmiling people
walk slowly past us, carrying miniature plants
and other gifts to the sick and dying.
It seemed to be a ritual of sorts,
where the strong tried to appease
the gods of infirmity,
thereby releasing their own emotions of guilt.
Leah tugged gently on my sleeve and asked
“Are you ready?”
“Yes” I replied
as I put my arm around her to
make our way past the construction
of a new wing.
Walking down the plywood corridor
that had been placed for civilian traffic,
I stopped for a moment to observe
At the base of the new building
stood a large crane that somehow I thought,
resembled some ancient prehistoric creature
that was dangling a large steel beam from its mouth.
Below, the sudden Rata-Tat tat
of a jackhammer tore into my silent observations,
bringing me back to my reality.
My wife motioned that it was time to go.
Yes, it was time to go, time to move on,
time to face what I abhorred most in life;
the absence of it.
The smooth glass doors made a swooshing sound,
as we entered the lobby,
which had the appearance of
a new shopping mall more than that of a hospital.
We walked up to a nearby desk
that had a tacky plastic sign that read,
Sitting behind the desk was a young man
of perhaps 30 years old,
wearing a dark blue blazer and a soft smile.
I half expected him to seat us for dinner.
“How may I help you?” he chirped.
I told him that we were here to see my mother
and that I had received a call telling
me that it was urgent. He nodded,
took all the information that was required,
and then handed the two of us,
small, peel-n-stick labels to put on our clothing.
Then, with a more somber look on his face,
he pointed us in the direction of the elevators.
We walked nervously past the gift shops
with their ceramic angels and get well soon balloons,
to a large fountain that shot plumes
of water toward the ceiling.
I looked at my wife, half hoping
she would tell me that we could forget about doing this,
if I wanted, and that we could run away
to Kangaroo Island or some other obscure place,
but she only smiled
and brushed a tear from my cheek.
Entering the elevator,
I looked around the mall like lobby
and wished that I were some place else.
The doors slid to and I punched third floor ICU.
The elevator gave a little drop
and then began to climb.
Stopping with a jolt,
the doors hissed and opened.
This time, the mall like atmosphere
had been replaced with a sterile,
mind numbing scene.
There were doctors and nurses moving about
in an almost mechanical manner.
Some were pushing carts
that contained all sorts of equipment.
It reminded me of a scene from the TV show, ER.
We stepped out of the elevator
and a nurse came to greet us.
She was middle aged
and wore her hair up in a tight ball
at the back of her head.
She looked tired and worn,
as if she had seen too much of a bad thing,
yet still, she offered up a smile
and asked if she could assist us.
I told her that we were here to see my mom
and that we had received a call
saying that it was urgent.
She asked me my moms name,
and upon hearing my reply,
her smile quickly faded
and was replaced with that
“Oh, I’m so sorry look”.
I felt my heart sink as she led
us down a narrow corridor to a tiny room
filled with all sorts of equipment,
which sighed, heaved and beeped.
Connected to the end of all this was my mom,
or what resembled my mom.
Her face was as white as her hair.
I was told that they were going
to remove all support today.
I could feel the tension in the air,
and the anger that came from
the direction of the other family members.
It was like walking a gauntlet
as I walked up to mom
and kissed her softly on her forehead.
I whispered I love you
and told her that I was sorry.
Yes that I was sorry,
I could have been around her more,
didn’t every time I call her she would say,
“ When are you coming to see your old Mom”?
“You know I won’t be here forever”!
Yes mother, I am so sorry,
I do love you so.
I am just so busy these days….
Busy these days rang like a dull instrument
in the back of my mind
as I watched the pumps and tubes
sustain her life for yet another hour.
I turned to my wife with yet more tears in my eyes.
Where are they all coming from I thought,
I do not think I have ever shed so many.
I looked back once more
and took a mental photograph
of this most gracious lady.
I observed the soft turn of her nose
and thought of all the tales she would tell.
I recalled the way she would laugh
when told a humorous joke;
how she would cry
at silly romantic scenes in the movies.
God, my heart was breaking
and I could do nothing,
I was helpless and I could not save her.
She was not even awake.
I hope to God that she somehow knew I was there.
Later that evening,
Leah told me that she saw Moms feet move
as I caressed her face.
I hope she knew!
I gazed intently at the softness of her face,
and thought of the times that she
held her face to mine as a child
to tell me how much she loved me.
I had said it was a photograph
of that moment that I had taken;
it was more like a roll of photographs,
for I surveyed every inch of her now frail body
and burned it into my mind.
I knew that this really would be goodbye
and I wanted it all.
I wanted this to live in me,
even as life ebbed from her.
Yes Mother, this is goodbye,
but I promise we will meet again.
January 28th 2002
they laid my dear mother to rest.
She was 61 years of age;
much too young to die, but die she did,
leaving the living to mourn her passing.
How does one sum up a chapter such as this?
Three years have passed
as I pen in these final words
and I ponder many things
and have come to this conclusion.
Never put yourself ahead of others.
Always make time for those you love,
and above all…simply LOVE.
Dedicated to my Mother: Maggie Elizabeth Wilson
J. Allen Wilson © 3-26-2005