(Inspired by William Stafford’s “The Way It Is”)
There is a breath that you follow.
Sometimes the breath is heavy,
oppressed by circumstance.
Sometimes you sing,
inspired by a courage
beyond words and music.
You grow old.
You never stop breathing
till it’s time for your last one.
Disheveled and depressed, his spirit is struggling to stay embodied. After 11 days in the hospital, the white stubble and glazed look in his eyes make me yearn for the man who introduced me to elements of the natural world as if they were my relatives, who sheltered me as his own daughter.
He’s still in there somewhere…
Sensing that he may respond to touch beyond the squeeze of a blood pressure cuff, the prick of needles drawing blood, even a cold stethoscope meant to hear the breath and beating of life, I ask the nurse for assistance in bathing him.
Our hands work gently, methodically, dipping white washcloths into warm soapy water, stroking dry wrinkled skin tenderly, as if we are bathing someone sacred. I hear whispers of encouragement. He is still here. Find him!
As if on cue, Papa responds. “Pass me a washcloth to help.”
Once the bathing ritual is finished, the nurse proceeds to dress this skeleton of a man in a new patient gown. I reach for the Eucerin cream and began to moisturize dry skin thirsty for better days. A single tear trickles down his cheek. It’s all that he can contribute despite the heavy diuretics he is on. We make eye contact. Something is different. The clouds still linger. There is also a clearing.
Today, I am not here as a doctor, Papa. The cardiologist and medicine team have that covered. Today, I am here as your daughter, someone who wants to bathe you in love. What good is modern medicine if loving connection is lost?