There are times in life when “being” seems complicated and permanent. And then there are those moments that reveal life’s simplicity and fragility.
The opportunity to observe Rounds in the Intensive Care Unit at a hospital is a most humbling experience. It is a place where lives are saved, but also where lives end.
An elderly man lies motionless is a bed, except for rhythmic movement of his chest from his respirator. Tubes and IVs form a web that only the nurses can navigate and monitors flash and pulse in a language foreign to most. The man’s skin looks ashen and delicate – his grey hair is still neatly combed as a reminder of the real person that once walked proudly among us.
The medical team gathers at his bedside and reviews test results and care plans. He is gravely ill and has been through so much. His organs are failing and his blood has become toxic. His family has asked that he be allowed to gently go – to go to a place where there is peace and freedom from pain.
The care team discusses in a matter of fact manner that within a few hours this man will die. He will pass as the rest of us are eating lunch or rushing to our next meeting. All will be oblivious that his life is ending, except for the doctors and those who love him.
I stand frozen outside his room, in a white coat that isn’t mine, but I wear so I will fit in. I feel so out of place in this strange land of the terminally ill, yet it is a privilege to be here. I have had a glimpse of where this man is going and it is a beautiful and peaceful place, so I feel no fear for him.
And it is in that moment that I hear Brahms "Lullaby" play over the hospital’s public-address system. The lullaby plays each time a baby is born. A chill runs own my spine and tears fill my eyes. I am witness to a life ending and to a life just beginning.
Life truly is that simple. Both at the beginning and end there are tears and the purest kind of love.
The circle continues.