Today’s prompt is simple – If you could zoom through space in the speed of light, what place would you go to right now?
I let my imagination take flight and, as it moves about, the images come tumbling out, gathering speed and velocity.
Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan; the Guggenheim Museum on the edge of Central Park; the Parisian hotel room we stayed in overnight on the Champs Elysees and the outdoor cafe where we had hot chocolate and croissants. The Swan Inn in Bradford-on-Avon near Bath, England, and the open hearth pub where my husband got proper drunk from the on-tap ales which were significantly higher in alcohol content than what we had in the U.S. Traveling the backroads of rural Louisiana to the marker where Bonnie & Clyde were gunned down, itself suitably “gunned” down by tourists; and sitting in an old Bourbon Street bar having absinthe, the table sticky from eons of humidity and people’s handprints. A Shrimp truck on the North Shore of Oahu, the flavors both familiar yet unique, and then to a beach filled with large turtles ambling about at their own pace, oblivious to us silly humans.
As I settle back and remember these and other journeys and sojourns, I focus in on one room in particular. It is a small room, not terribly significant or special in and of itself. We’re told to come into the room and to just stand there and we do, along with our host. The outside was warm and we had been sweating as we always were on this trip, from both the heat and humidity, plus the exertion of walking, but here in this room it is cool. The air seems still and I feel immediately at peace. I suspect, but don’t know, that nobody has entered this room in a few days. After we are in the room along with the host, we hear a bark and a small dog happily joins us – a Lhasa Apso, his tail wagging.
“This is where he stayed when he came to give his blessing,” the man says. Looking around, I see a small bed, and a chair that reclines with a reading lamp, as well as a small chest of drawers. As I said, unremarkable in appearance.
I close my eyes and picture the scene – the monks escaping from their homeland, crossing to India to just survive long enough to set up another monastery to take in children abandoned or orphaned, to teach them and others. They finally have a building after many years and it is their privilege to host the Dalai Lama who will bless the building, providing them validation for having left Tibet for this new world in Dharamsala, India. They are the survivors who are charged with carrying on with the traditions and rituals of their faith to the new generation.
Here he sat, here he slept. A man – just a man. But even so, he left a tingle of himself in his wake – his DNA sloughed off cells that have infused this room in this building with his essence and I am at peace just by being here.
And as I remember this, I remember another room, another man and another bed. I don’t remember his name, just that he was restrained gently in the bed, his chocolate colored skin taking on an ashy tint, the restraints so he wouldn’t flail and hurt himself. His agitation due to the cancer that is rapidly killing him. There is a boombox nearby with a CD on a continuous play of soothing music. As I walk in the room, he looks peaceful and at rest. No flailing this morning. I smile to myself, thinking – well, thank goodness, the poor man. He’s about my age and has brain cancer. As I walk a bit closer, though, I realize with a start that he is not asleep, but rather, he is dead. It’s like a thud inside me to immediately realize this. I turn around and walk to the nurses’ station but don’t immediately find one. After about five minutes, a nurse happens by and I tell her about the patient and that I think he has passed away.
We return to the room together – she the professional and I, the volunteer. She is efficient but also kindly, checking a pulse and her watch, and saying, yes, he is gone. Now she has work to do – family to call, tubes to remove, restraints to remove. She tells me I can stay with him or, if I’m uncomfortable, I can leave, but she is going to find his chart and call a sister. I say, no, I’ll stay until you come back, it’s fine. And it is. After she leaves, I walk to the chair and sit down, bearing witness to this man’s pain and his release. I don’t know him, but I sense that in the second time in the room, that something has changed in the energy and then it hits me.
I probably initially came into his room just a few minutes after he had died; now, about ten minutes later, I sense a huge difference in the room’s energy as if whatever was left of “him” has now taken its leave. The body on the bed looks more like just a shell that once housed a man who lived and loved and probably was loved in return. Who didn’t think he’d die in his 30’s of cancer; who probably hoped for more time but not getting that, just did his best to live as long as possible, until the cancer had taken enough of him that he was left to flail helplessly in a hospice unit.
There is a sense of peace here now. A sense of completion. Later, I cry about it but for now, I just marvel at how even in death it takes time for the soul or spirit to depart its host and go where it will.
Different rooms on opposite ends of the earth. In both however there is the imprint of lives, of life, one of a renowned holy man, the other of a man who in death is at once both holy and whole.