The hospital room is modern, fresh paint on the walls and beautifully self- contained. There is no need to share a room with total strangers, forced unwillingly to witness to their most private ablutions. The windows furnished with heavy drapes, perfectly suited for blocking out the light or providing a frame for the sun’s rays as they crawl into the room early in the morning. With the personal bathroom facilities, the television, a bell to call for whatever your heart desires, one could almost believe they were on a retreat. Some highly sought after destination secluded in the bowels of a rain forest.
Ah! However, this is not such a place, this is a hospital, and this bed contains a woman. This woman has passed the first blush of youth, she is not old, but her face is beginning to show the ravages of time. Her hair unpolluted by chemical colouring, sprinkled with flecks of grey. After decades of abusing her hair with chemicals, she has belatedly decided to honour her body. She now chooses not to colour her hair. Ever so quickly, a whimsical smile crosses her face, as she recalls her hair has been literally every colour of the rainbow. Not at the same time of course, she was never that radical.
Her face softly lined around the eyes, a furrow permanently etched between her brows. Her mother constantly scolded her for frowning into the sun, proclaiming such folly would cause wrinkles. She smiles noting perhaps she had no choice, but to grow this particular wrinkle, as Mothers are always right. Her once pink lips have somehow taken on a bleached appearance, yet her smile has not lost any of its exuberance. Her eyes are dancing in tandem with this spontaneous eruption of contained mirth, shoulders gently tickling her earlobes. She muses over the value of a good laugh, shared, or like this one in private.
With a sigh, she rolls onto her side, gazing out of the opened window and fixing her attention on a group of trees. She becomes entranced by the dappling of the light as the sun finds it ways around the leaves of the tree. Her observations move to the dance of the leaves, as the wind quietly caresses the foliage, tickling them into a dance which is totally unique and beautiful to watch. Wondering at the dimensions of the trunk and how it has managed to grow so tall and strong, carrying the weight of the foliage in a manner which suggests no effort at all. She wonders as to who are the occupants of the tree, what are their stories, are they long term inhabitants or transient? Are birds the only ones who live here or is it a shared home? A smile tickles at the edges of her mouth as she imagines a youth hostel for birds in this tree, providing a safe haven for them as they ‘back pack’ around the world. What would a bird’s back pack look like? She quietly scolds herself, that is enough; it is getting a little silly!
The rebuke has bought her attention back into the room, her gaze falls onto the contents of her breakfast tray. It is little changed since the friendly nurse bought it to her early this morning. It was met with an enthusiasm which quickly subsided and was replaced with disinterest. Food just didn’t seem like a priority at the moment, her thoughts and body were focused elsewhere. She notices the unread newspaper which had been thoughtfully provided with her breakfast tray. There was a time she would have read the contents like a ravenous man consuming his last meal. Cover to cover and then to the crossword, no stone would be left unturned. Not today, she would rather study the tree and the beauty within, then concern herself with stories of tragedy. There is enough tragedy in life without actively seeking it, all she had to do was walk the corridors of this ward, and she could find more than her fair share.
That reminds her, it is time for her walk, the distance increasing every day, and this is no time to drop the ball. Gingerly, she negotiates rolling from her side, using the rails for support. Thank goodness for these electric beds, at a push of the button they can do half of the job for you. She is appreciative of the mechanism, which assists her into the sitting position; from here, it is a breeze. Standing as straight as possible she gathers the hospital gown around her slightly bent frame. As she tries to straighten further she feels like an elastic band which has been stretched far too tight, and any moment could snap. One last check to ensure her modesty is preserved and she enthusiastically embarks upon her exercise.
As she puts one foot in front of the other, she chooses not to focus on the pain but on the benefits to her recovery. She knows instinctively that day by day, if she is prepared to part of the healing process, she will get better. It is vital that she is not a passenger in the process, she is a partner, it is her body, and she is the share holder with the controlling interest. Her determination is reflected on her face, we are not in the presence of a victim.Travelling down the corridors at a reasonable pace, she is feeling more than a little pleased with her progress. She is happy to accept the words of encouragement and praise from the medical staff, and the other patients. When did life get so simple, experiences like this bringing so much joy? Revelling in the purity of the moment this walk was giving her, she radiates an inner glow, drawing people to her like moths to a flame.
Engaging with all that she encounters on this walk, not once does she indicate any level of pain or disinterest in others. You could be forgiven for forgetting you are in a hospital, and not on the streets where you have run into her during your daily routine. Her blue and white hospital gown stands in stark contrast with the suit of the Doctor with whom she is holding a conversation. Nobody notices the gown; they notice a proud woman, strong carriage with a lovely smile and a twinkle in her eye.
She returns to her room, shuts the door and draws the drapes. This walk has cost her physically, and she is now concentrating on damage control. The closed door offers her protection from prying eyes, and affords her time to collect her senses, should anyone need to come into the room. As the door shuts, the colour drains from her face and her eyes dull considerably, she is intently focused on her bed.
Her movement has become laboured and her face mirrors the pain that she is feeling. Without an audience to play to she is free to express the pain, not a noise is made as she makes her way to the side of the bed. She collapses onto the bed, thankful that she has left it in the upright position. Lifting her legs carefully as if they were made of the finest crystal and with one wrong move they could shatter into a million pieces. Now in the seated position she engages the control and slowly levels out the bed, to a position which is tolerable for her now throbbing body.
Drawing the covers up to her chin, she shuts her eyes slowly, savouring the moment. Her features soften and you can see the pain ebb from her body, her breathing becomes deeper. Her thoughts once again focus on the tree, what would the tree do, if it were me? As she sits with her thoughts a quiet passage of tears roll down her face, collecting on her chin, before they finally come to rest on the sheets. Unaware of the tears, she is still searching for the wisdom of the tree, and then she remembers the words of a very dear friend. “Welcome your tears, they are liquid prayers”, with this memory she becomes aware of the tears and smiles. “Welcome”, she says out loud, realisation dawning at the same time, she knew exactly what the tree would do.
The tree would stand tall and strong, realizing that it is a part of nature, in its wisdom it would not fight the elements. It would bend with the wind, welcome the rains and offer safe harbor to others who need it. It would make sure that its roots were firm and deep in the earth ensuring the nourishment and stability it relies on for existence. It would take in the polluted air and return oxygen, celebrating its vital contribution to the living.
A feeling of great peace washes over her, joyously aware of the tears, which are now noiselessly washing down her face. This time she welcomes each one of them. “Well dear tree, it appears that you and I aren’t that different after all”.
There is a knock at the door and a Nurse calls in, are you ok in here? She responds with a lilt in her voice, “Wonderful, thank you, I am just taking a nap”. The Nurse responds, “Well I’ll leave you to it then” as she is shutting the door. With the room returned to darkness, and her liquid prayers drying on her face she slips into a peaceful slumber.
In the strangest of places, the human spirit takes the opportunity to shine. Strength can be drawn from all of natures offerings, we simply have to be open to their gifts.