"...the touch of the hand and the sound of the voice Live on in the soul always" -Spencer Free
It was the faintest of voices calling my name, half hesitant, half deliberate and all desirous to communicate. I remembered the face but the name had slipped a long time ago. I smiled, too embarrassed to hide my ignorance and blurted out into a higher than normal pitched hello. Loudness does not hide ignorance, neither does changing subjects. She said, “You don’t remember me do you?”
She was in her seventies, carried herself with dignity, dressed well and had her grey hair cut perfectly to her face. She introduced herself to me as I mumbled my apologies. “You know,” she said in her mild mannered voice, “It sure is nice to see you again.” It had been a long time since I had seen Betty. She took my hand in hers with a smile of gratitude.
“How are you?” I asked, trying mightily to carry the communication forward. “I am fine, thanks to you!” she said. And just like that her history tumbled across the screen of my mind.
It had been a long day and I was on my way home and a vascular surgeon friend called. His voice was shaky and his sentences incomplete conveyed the angst. “Are you around?” He asked. “Listen,” he ignored my answer because it was lost amidst his anxious words. “I have a bleeder in here and I need some help.” With those words, I made a quick exit off the freeway and was back at the hospital. The oozing operating site, the saturated dressings and the pinging machines signifying danger filled the recovery room. The nurses immune to the sounds carried about their work with efficiency and measured pace only their flushed faces depicted the anguish within. We spent the evening and most of the night summoning blood products and other pharmaceuticals to contain the bleeding. Just after midnight, the blood pressure stabilized and the intravascular clotting mechanism abated. The elements stabilized and the acidity and elemental imbalance seem to correct partially. She opened her eyes and responded to questions. It was time to find a place to rest.
The storm however continued for her for two more days, the collapsing pressures, the replaced blood products and their own complicating tincture of illness magnified by the blossoming viral infection that she had arrived in the hospital with, unbeknownst to the surgeon. Life took hold and no matter how hard the undiscovered country’s reaper tried to extract the fighting spirit from this lady, she held fast. Four days after she was well enough to enter the post-surgical floor and ten days later, she was on her way home. She and I had many chats by her bedside. She was a woman of faith. She was lady with a prodigious sense of quiet strength. She had an amazing sense of understanding while I droned on about what had happened and how her strength had saved her own life. She listened gratefully, but never interjected her thoughts or questioned what was being said. She had Grace.
And here she stood all 5 feet 3 inches of her frame, complete with her independence, courage and the gift of undeniable strength. “I am so glad to see you again.” She said, “I have been meaning to thank you for helping me through during the difficult time. You saved my life and I will forever be grateful.”
“No, no!” I protested, “It was your strength and courage that got you through.” She closed her eyes and quietly said, “I know better doctor.” With that she smiled gave me a hug. Such human Grace!
Touching a soul as she touched mine gives warmth and comfort beyond all measure. It is a human treasure of gifting love and friendship. It is that rare thing called “the human touch!”
And then without warning in that shrinking open space between humans, she confided her fears, “You know doctor, it is not the same as it used to be.” I knew where the conversation was leading, but held my tongue. “The doctors don’t have time for patients anymore. They are constantly being harassed by their staff to take phone calls, figure out the billing codes, all the while their eyes are glued to the computer screen. Even their questions and answers are echoes off the screen. They are so harried that they rarely look at you. It feels like we are all numbers in the marketplace.” Her face reddened a bit, she paused then the apologies tumbled, “I don’t mean to sound disparaging, but I do miss those days of being comforted, of a hand on the shoulder, of a kind word. I miss telling my doctors about my family now, because they cut it short anyway. I only tell them what I think they want to hear sometime.”
Confessions such as these must make us wonder what we have wrought. There lies the bleeding ghost of humanity, all vapor and cloud, immersed within the confines of a hard fought intellect. An intellect that caters to the demands of its vices and none of the humanity’s virtues, cold and icy to the touch of the probing fingers of past thought, it is huddled in a warm embrace with the devil in the numbers. A society so adrift and rudderless in the vast measureless oceans of space where gravity fears to tread that all manners of vision seem arbitrary and capricious.
One human living or dying is but a “1” or “0” respectively in the emotionless graphic curve, “0s” are meaningless to the “1s” that live for the optimization of rules for the many. The “0” has but no measure, no distinction, it is the past erased, it has ceased to exist. The “1” has but a mis-measured sense of time advocating the non-value of the “0” not wanting to know that the “zeroness” will be upon him or her who is pontificating, soon.
In the end it is about humanity, how we live with one another and not about the things that we desire momentarily. After all a human touch will always be more powerful than the brand new digital wonder on one’s wrist. ! Speak about the many disenchanted souls filling their stomachs with antidepressants as they fill their minds with “nothingness.” The mind of man does through the body of time conjure up concepts that are tuned to certain interests. Those concepts that ultimately succeed over time are most in tune with the commonest of sense and the basics of humanity.