Saturday, October 22, 2005


Back in the mid-eighties, I was in the medical profession. I focused on emergentology. By training, my specialty was neurosecurity.

Well, actually, I was a security guard in a hospital, working for slightly more than minimum wage. But I did spend a lot of time at my post by the emergency ward.

One day, this guy Ralph was with me. He had just been hired. It was his first day on the job and I was showing him the duties in the emergency area.

This particular day, there had just been a "code 99". A code 99 is when the ambulance is coming and the patient's heart has stopped. Our job, when a code 99 was called -- or when any urgent ambulance arrival was expected -- was to try to clear the front driveway of people doing drop-offs so the ambulance could get by, then open the ambulance bay doors. And once the ambulance was in, we would help by opening doors, etc.

[This is just an aside, but do you have any idea how many people refuse to move their vehicles when they are told that an ambulance is coming with a patient in critical condition?]

Anyway, we had just gotten to the emergency area when the ambulance had arrived in its garage. I reached for the knob to the door leading from the garage to the ER area. Just before I could touch the handle, the door swung open fast, and people came pouring through. And so did a gurney with a young man's limp body on it. He was pale and lifeless looking. His eyes were open and blank. And his arms were flopping over to the side. Not even two seconds passed before he was out of sight.

Ralph looked like he was going to barf.

He had probably been on the job for less than an hour and already had seen what I think was his first lifeless body.

Actually, we have no idea if the kid lived or died. But he sure looked dead.

Right at that moment, I was more worried about Ralph. Something in his eyes made me think it had really affected him, shook him.

I had an idea. I continued by taking him on a tour -- to the maternity ward. We just sat there, looking at the babies for awhile. We stayed about 10 or 15 minutes. I don't think either of us spoke. But when it was time to move on, he thanked me. I guess he realized why I went there.

I like Ralph. He was good people.

What I actually wanted to tell you was not about Ralph. It was about something I started to understand when I worked at the hospital.

My oldest brother had died of a brain tumor while I was working there. He had been sick for a few years. He was not a patient of that hospital, but, for me, the events at the hospital, and slow dying of my brother were intertwined. They taught me something.

While working at the hospital -- while my brother was dying -- I came to realize something. Something important.

We are all dying. I was living, at that time, in a town of around 80,000 people. Up to that time, I had only seen about 4 or 5 dead bodies. And I had friends who had never seen any. Or maybe just their grandmother or somebody old. But if 80,000 people lived there, and if I were to live my whole life in that town, and if I should enjoy an average life span, I should expect that around 80,000 of my neighbours would die during my time there.

So where were all the bodies?

Up to that point in my life, death had been a creepy thing. A hidden thing. A thing to fear. Cryptic. A thing that crawls beneath the floor.

But while I worked there -- at the emergency door so much of the time. As I wandered through the wards at night. As I pondered the loss of my own brother. As I heard about one young 20 year old girl who lost her life to asthma because somebody refused to send an ambulance. (That bothered me day and night, wondering who she must have been.) As life and death swirled around in my head. I realized.

A message of hope.

Death is all around us. Death is everywhere. But death is not the problem.

The problem is that we hide it.

That's why we see so little of it. That's why we think it is so creepy. Why we think it is so repulsive. That's why we fear it so much.

We need to know, that all life ends in death. We don't seek death, but we still must accept it.

Instead, we hide it. We teach our children to hide from it. As we did.

When I took Ralph up to the maternity ward that day, it was to show him, without saying, that life is a cycle. We die. We are born.

This is life.

Most of our fear is not of death itself.

Most of our fear is because we choose to live our lives in delusion. And in our delusions, we think the answer is to hide from death. And to hide it from ourselves.

Because we don't face it, it can swallow us. It is not death that swallows our lives. Death only takes what was never ours. Delusion takes what is.

I titled this post "Security". That is the delusion. There is no security. But grasping for it can cause you to waste what you do have.

Embrace the truth. Face your fears. Live.


Blogger Kelly said...

This is, without a doubt, your best post to date. Keep up the good work!

7:43 AM  

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