Did you know that metal and plastic have their own odors? Feel? History? Combined with other scents, they become somewhat of a Book of the Living and The Dying. They do. I know. I’m made of them. I have copper in me and silver, a poly product recently developed to keep me light. I’m cold and inflexible – this is what they think, but there is a bit of everyone’s scent on me, everyone’s fears and gratitude, the bursting of illusions and welcoming of transition. That changes the game, doesn’t it? It should. It makes me part of the team and without me, no one would be there to hold my loved ones. My function is that of support, to stand silently and hold those who arrive, release them when they are ready to go and be non-judgmental in the meantime. Silence is my inheritance. That doesn’t mean I’m not observant, that I don’t see all things, or hear the conversations held in the hallway when I’m empty, when the room is being prepped for the newest inhabitant. I never agreed to ignore anything. This is my room. This place of equipment, a sink and toilet that come out of the wall on demand, where there are electronic charts, beeping sounds that are constant if the ones I hold are lucky. I know by the way they grip my rails who has been loved, broken, betrayed or who betrays – there was one I held who had two wives who didn’t know each other existed until they came to visit him in this room. My room. Meeting each other for the first time while I held him, careful to keep the tubes straight, watching while they argued about him, tugging at his toes and I wanted to close up like a shell and hold him like a pearl until the nurse entered, instructing them to leave. We are serious here about care. She knew he’d betrayed. We all did. Every wall, bit of machinery, tube and syringe knows after a while the truth of the lives who have been here. It doesn’t matter to us. Speech isn’t necessary. Truth lives on the energy of everyone, everything. I held this one, not the way the angels did, but I did my best. That is all anyone can do. I continued comforting him as he dressed, as he spoke to both wives on the phone. I felt relieved when he left and wished him good luck in my way. He was going to need it.
The new ones are always interesting. Each time they grip the side rails, grounding themselves as they come out of the abyss, adding their essence trail to the previous one, like snails coming and going. I wear an invisible coat, a pelt that gets wiped away every time someone new arrives. I’m wiped down as if I’m the infected one, the vulnerable one who needs healing, but traces of souls linger whether alive or dead. The oil in their hands, the vacant spots where rings used to be and watches – they become more aware of time while here and have no real way of measuring it until they leave – the first breath after surgery or pronouncement of death, all of it ends up on me. I’m the first to know they are gone. Well, the angels know but that is different. Can you imagine what I’ve seen? I have so many stories I could tell. Acceptance. Realizations. Embarrassments. Their bits and pieces seep into the porous and invisible spots beneath my surface. That is where the essence lives. Only I know this – that no history is ever completely wiped clean, or forgotten, or unimportant. Every moment counts and the nameless are always noticed by the angels. Most importantly? All is forgiven. They’ve told me, these angels, invisible friends who know me as they do every bit of surface here, the monitors, the mattress padding that feels crisp at the edges when first changed, the walker that waits patiently, like all of us, to be needed, ready to serve. They hover, cajoling, persuading those who aren’t committed in either direction. It’s like an invisible dance on the rails for those in transition or on a path of renewal. When the lights are dim, when the nurses switch shifts and the meals are wheeled down the hall we chat, the angels and me. We wait. Watch. This room’s chaos has moments of bliss. Every heartbeat, every breath. That is the bliss. Every goodbye is a good one, regardless of which side of the veil you are on. It is the only inevitability.
“This one’s name?”
“Shh” Her wings open quickly without sound as she floats overhead, hovers, caressing the new one I am holding. I can see through her. I see through all of them. Her light pulses down, penetrating the new one, shoots through the mattress, touches my frame, my motor, my hard rubber wheels. It warms me – every single time, knocks over the mind as if Gabriel himself were in the room. Their light sustains me, strengthens my cold rails and restores my need to stay focused in my mission, to be true and solid.
“Sleep” her words aren’t uttered in sound. They are a wave of pale lavender energy, anointing the forehead of the one I am holding, wrapping the entire room as a ribbon does a golden box, a gift for eternity. The energy stream is a knowing, a sign for me that the one I am holding will survive, that the event will be recorded on the right side of my rails, in the stainless-steel counters, in the hard surfaces the living assume have no awareness. The dead know. They’ve been on both sides of the veil. There will be another one to attend the dance now. The angel departs with a nod and is gone, leaving only the mute female sentry in the corner, her wings spread out around the monitor screen, watching the green ECG/EKG lines, seemingly entranced by ST readings, monitoring the systolic and diastolic and I wonder if this one is as experienced in patient care as I am. I haven’t seen her before. I’ve been here five years. She is wide eyed and young, dressed in a white suit, her dark skin like warm embers, her long dark hair flowing past her waist, her wings tipped in gold. I want to kiss her. She is exquisite and sharp. She looks at me and smiles through her mute mouth that has no lips, only chords like a harp. I know the names of everyone I’ve held, their diagnosis, their destination. If I had veins there’d be liquid love flowing through them. I imagine that I do, that I can be more than true and solid. I tell the angels all the time I want to pulse that liquid love through the tubes and leads that flop over my rails, holding this one – all of them – to the world, keeping them connected to this life, from floating so far away they can’t return. I am the tether. I accept the contents of their tubes to be what is needed for their bodies but I’ve learned what is needed for their souls. I do my job. They and the angels do theirs. They come back from the abyss or they don’t.
The entire department was remodeled last year. My room is at the end of the unit, next to the elevator bank. The new hallway floor is a cream color, with tiny speckles of blue and beige, bordered along the walls in a deeper yet soft blue. Nurses and aids walk ambulatories up and down the hall, slowly, progressing to normal strides, wearing new gowns with tiny smiley faces on them, open in the back and held together with two tiny pieces of fabric. Now one looks. Each room has motion sensitive sliding glass doors, an opening into where I live, and lounge chairs for the ones I hold to relax in when they can sit up. They are encouraged to move as soon as possible after the neck tubes are removed, the ones in their chests, once they can sit up. Some never can. There is a pocket on each chair side for reading material, a slot for their heart pillow – every patient gets one, donated by a volunteer group, theirs to hug when they cough, cling to when nothing else helps and when my rails are a distant memory at home when they try to forget. The angels and I never forget. Heart pillows made of donated fabrics – always red, some solid, most random patterns and stuffed with hygienic fiber fill. I feel them, light as a feather but with energy the size of the building, energy that brings comfort to the chests of the ones I hold as they cling to them, coughing the first few times, a teddy bear of sorts reducing their fear of splitting wide open and dying. Heart pillows on the chest of the one I hold – I feel the sweetness down to my core. It is one of the perks of the job I do. So is watching the nurse comb someone’s hair, massage their hands and feet, helping them re-enter a world they almost left. I am a witness of sorts to rebirth and extreme compassion.
I meet interesting people even though I can’t leave the room as the angels do. They visit everyone. There was a gypsy in my room last year – Romani – I heard a nurse tell an orderly “Please be respectful” and now I know the correct word. I held her for one week after the valve replacement procedure which her family hadn’t wanted. She did. It was her heart. Her decision.
They tumbled out of the elevator like a circus group, modern dress but an energy that was old and skeptical. There was an invisible curtain, a group aura, that traveled with them to the room. Five of them arrived, only one allowed in the room at a time. The first one, a young woman dressed in a black silk pants suit and purple scarf visited the one I held, lit a sage stick, waving the smoke around her.
“You can’t do that here” the nurse watched them from when they first arrived. Her voice was kind yet stern.
The smell from the red match-head filled the room. Sulfur and sage smoke circled me – one more scent for my pores. For that moment, I felt the angels bow their heads, their wings opening and closing in recognition of love, the pale green light from their hearts glowing brighter and brighter. They do not intervene. They are witnesses as I am. The difference is their direct connection, their powers to guide and direct. Their pureness. All I can do is hold the ones who need it.
“Clearing the room” the young Romani woman’s voice was low and steady. Her smile polite and hesitant.
“I’m sorry. You just can’t do that here” The Romani woman politely left my room at the nurse’s request. The angels and I watched.
One at a time, family members entered my room. One brought a ball of string, tied a pentagram around the bed, connecting at the feet of the one I held, chanted something I’d never heard before in a voice so soft that it felt like velvet draping across everything in the room, me, the chair, the two large ceiling fixtures. He waved his hands in the air, gently, slowly, up and down the chest of the one I held. The next Romani came in as he left. The drabami. When she entered my room, the one I held opened her eyes briefly, gave a faint smile and whispered that word, closing her eyes again, returning to the abyss. The drabami stood near the one I held speaking to her in their language, reaching her deep down in their ancestral nest. I don’t know what the words meant, only that they were constructed from beauty and love, tradition and hope. The Romani alternated visits into my room where I held her for that week until she was released. Empty again, I waited to be wiped down along with the wall of stainless steel fixtures, the floor, the appointments to my room. I liked watching the sink and toilet move in and out of the wall, retreating when not being used, quiet and invisible. I enjoy watching the mini-fridge be cleaned of snacks and drinks the families bring. Pudding is my favorite. The ones I hold love it, chocolate mostly. My room is self-contained. I’m happy here. I hear the nurses talking as they came in and out, restocking the cabinets, bedpans, toiletries, restocking the music CDs, a wide selection appealing to everyone’s taste. Soft music for those who enjoy it. Bible, Koran, The Lotus Sutra for anyone who asked. In the metal cabinet to the right of the sliding doors, there is a crucifix, a Buddha, a Star of David and several other religious icons. The angels chuckle at this, not because they felt this unnecessary, but because of the white energy that came off the staff and rose to the angels’ hearts and kept them filled with Joy. It vibrated like a tickle. Their wings opened involuntarily. Their heads bowed deeply. I heard the nurses talking that second night after the Romani woman left my room. They said she died shortly after going home. I wanted to be sad. I wasn’t. She died with her people, her tribe. I don’t have a tribe. That makes me sad. The shine of the cream and blue hallway was the only light that night as the angels and I planned for the next arrival. It was like moonlight coming into my room. The stainless-steel wall sparkled. The equipment was still, on mini sabbatical, quiet, a pause in the ongoing story.
I live in a room with angels. The people who visit come to be healed. I hold them as tightly as I can. I listen to the clanking of wheels on the food carts that feed them, the whirring of machines that keep them alive, their loved ones who visit – some sob, some sit with Grace and breathe in the moment. I am fulfilling my destiny. The angels and I are never alone. Every person I have ever loved is here, their essence lives in the pores of my being. I record their stories inside me and one day, when it is my time to leave, to be replaced and remodeled, I will pass on my knowledge to a new generation. My old parts will be their new parts. The angels assure me I will be re-born and used as I’ve instructed in my will. They will watch over me regardless of the form I am in. Nothing will change my soul. They will recognize me and visit, breathing their pale lavender light into me, wrapping it like a ribbon around a gold box for eternity, holding me as I have always held others. I am loved. I am unafraid.
© jacqualine-marie 2016 – all rights reserved