Friday, August 18, 2006

Life and Death

I am leaving town for the weekend but before that...a long day at work

I am walking around to the different sections of the hospital to drop off the day’s news flashes. I come to a familiar door and tension sets in. The ICU.

My breath quickens as I flash my badge to buzz me in. I don’t like this place. This place smells of death and decay. There are family members in waiting rooms outside looking pale and people inside stuck in isolated rooms.

Many people in the ICU are elderly. Frail and weak, nearing the end of their life and I feel as if that essence rubs off on me whenever I walk through there.

I pass by a women and glance in her room. She looks about 100 years old. Tubes are sticking out of her and she is lying down with her mouth agape because of a breathing tube.

I shudder.

This place smells like death.

It seems this place is a passageway to the other side.

Do these people know they will die?

Even though many people in the ICU live, surviving heart attacks, strokes, etc…many must know that this might be their final destination before they head up to the Pearly gates. I venture to guess that this lady, who looks about 100 years old, knows somewhere inside her that age is catching up to her and she will probably die.

At that moment I hear a “Code Blue” on the intercom and a rush of people run into 100-year-olds room. Her heart stopped beating.

Is it the end?

I rush out of there before I could find out. I don’t like death. I don’t understand it, and my best bet is to stay far away from it.

My next stop is the Women’s Hospital. It is the place where, it seems, every woman in Orange County goes to give birth thanks to the best doctors, best birthing suites and great press. The skylights in there give a bright happy feeling to the place and it smells like baby lotion and flowers. Much better.

I pass by an open suite as I head to the nurses station. I glance inside to see a young mother holding a bundled up tiny baby.

She has this glow on her face. She coos at her baby and her proud husband stands over her snapping five thousand pictures. Family and friends are gathered in the room to celebrate. I see a “It’s a Girl” balloon attached to some flowers.

I smile at that image. New life is always a happy occasion.

It seems that image has just washed away the deathly images I have leftover from the ICU.

Even though this new baby will one day make the transition to old lady...even though I know it all comes full circle...I can't help but smile.

Yes, I think to myself, death is certain…but Life, new Life…is much happier to think about.


question girl said...

nice.... very nice

(unfortunatly, i for somereason now hear "circle of life" in my head)....

however, that is what it is and you said it eloquently, as usual

shpprgrl said...

Yes, I hear 'circle of life' too. Because life DOES have a soundtrack.


Jade said...

Hi Rach, I've boarded your blog from my friend Mr Burns today, and actually I've been reading your posts for awhile now, (still through Burnsey) Somedays I don't read you because when I do, you overwhelm me with how gorgeously you write and I feel a little inadequate. But today you wrote about death and I felt a connection. I cried when I read your Nala post. Such a gorgeous relationship you have with that girl, whether she's here physically or not. I love reading about how you live your life, such a beautiful family you have... I love how you express yourself and you inspire me to keep writing and I thankyou for that.

CP said...

If past lives exist, you were definetly one of my best friends in one of them.


work in progress said...

I used to fear nursing homes. I remember going to them when I was a Brownie (young girl scout) and hating every minute of it. Even at that age I knew that the residents were living there until the end of their lives and it creeped me out. Two years ago when I discovered that the major I had chosed in college required me to spend a semester interning in a nursing home, I freaked. I considered changing my major. I had to truly evaluate why I was so damned scared of those places.

I decided that it's the constant reminder of my mortality. I'm with you, death scares me and I don't understand it. Well put.

At the orientation the woman who was director of the Alzheimer's unit discussed the possibility of residents we work with passing. She said that while we may be sad that the resident has passed, we don't mourn them, we celebrate the full lives they have lead.

The semester was wonderful and the experience invaluable. I wouldn't trade the experience for anything.

I leave the longest damn comments! Tell me to stop if it bugs you.

Rex Venom said...

Interesting read. Interesting thoughts.
Rock on!

Lydia said...

That was beautifully written, but tough for me to read. And yet you bring it to such an optimistic close. Which is of course the best way to think about the realities of life.

mollymcmommy said...

very well written, i always think that as we age we become more like how we were when we entered this world.

on a nurse's view, i like the unit, while they are very sick there is every advantage to being there, the 1:1 care and every technology available.


Steve said...

I don't know how nurses working in the ICU do it. I couldn't imagine watching people go through that much emotional turmoil constantly is got to wear on you. Then again, I suppose on the times that someone comes back from a life threatening situation and recovers it could be very uplifting.

deepsat said...

good post rach!!

death is the biggest acceptance of life! don't get bogged down by it! celebrate life and enjoy death!!


Aargh said...

As always your posts get me thinking. Another beaut Rachel and not meaning to jump on the bandwagon but I have the song Circle of Life running through my head.

Tiffanie said...

Yes, focusing on the positive is always better. Nice story.

Rachel said...

I went to elementary school next to a nursing home. Every year at Halloween they made us tromp through the facility in our costumes to "brighten" the day of the inmates (oops) residents.
I am sure that some of them enjoyed it, but it was very disconcerting as a young child to see people basically dumped off to other people rather than be cared for by their family. I guess that I am old fashioned with that belief, but my mother cares for my elderly grandmother and will until she passes. I hope that I am able to honor my mother the same way.
Life is amazing whether at the beginning or the end. Just like a good Monty Python movie.

Scott said...

I could never work in a hospital... they just freak me out. Good on ya though.


Keshi said...

Very realistic post abt Life...and Death.

**It seems this place is a passageway to the other side.

yes...most hospitals r that. But it doesnt have to be a hospital or and old person where Death hangs ard. Death can visit anyone anywhere.

Yes new Life is such a joyful thing to think abt.

But just as the sun goes down every day, so must Life at some stage...and then a new sunrise dawns, just like a new baby.


Mike Stickel said...

That definitely sounds like a full day. After reading about your reaction when the code blue was called I started thinking about how I would react and I don't know what I would do. That worries me somewhat because I know I don't want to just be a bystander if I was in that type of situation.

It's great that after your experience with the elderly woman you still got to see such a happy part of life with the new mother.