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LUCKY GARVIN: A Temporal Sketching

Lucky Garvin

Although no longer practicing medicine, every now and then my mind undertakes a backward seeking. This memory came to me today:

I watched a little boy say, `Good-bye’ the other day. The `little boy’, Tommy, is a specialist in the hospital where I work. He is about fifty-five years old. But certainly, it was little Tommy whose voice broke when he whispered, “Good-bye, Mommy.”

It was so hard for him. He left the room where she lay, came back, touched her shoulder awkwardly, cried, tried not to, cried again, left the room and came back as pain and tenderness struggled in a mindless dance.

I think the child within him must have remembered that face when it was smooth and beautiful. From a time before knowing, in the waking of his infancy, her face was there; the first thing he ever saw as his senses came slowly to focus; and when his courage had come undone by some terror hiding beneath his bed, was it not her hug and the scent of her which had filled his desperate, outstretched arms?

These were the arms which had cradled his slumber and calmed his fretfulness; and these the hands which, over his impatient protest, washed and wiped and brushed him. Her eyes; now dim; once so lustrous and radiant with love, had watched him through his fevered nights, denying her own repose until his was certain. Her mind was now fixed in a place beyond dreaming; shifting slowly and reluctantly to the inward gaze of her next becoming.

Leaving him.

But, “To die is only not to be.” That’s all. But that’s not all. There is the missing her; the being without her. Perhaps he hoped that she would stop somewhere and wait for him.

Her voice is stilled. Then how can it be that he hears those soft echoes yet again, “When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall; and down will come Tommy…”? Layer by layer his disbelief fell away, his shoulders sagged. It was done. Working as one, the physician in his competence and the little boy with his magic could not do what she had done for him: make her well again.

Death is indifferent to the rituals by which we deal with it. It pays our petty constructions and remedies no mind. The `code’ room rustled with the useless little chores we feel we owe the dying. Small things keep big things from the mind.

Existence beyond the one we now know lies beyond our understanding; outside the furthest beam of our lamp; and this is as it should be; for it profits us nothing spiritually to know a thing by certain evidence.

But the mystery of it all comes together just a bit for me to believe that our separateness is but a temporal sketching; an illusion of our earthly experience; our essential connectedness in fact running far deeper than our superficial separation; that we are not human beings having a spiritual experience, but spiritual beings having a human experience.

So I stay with her. When we sit with the dying, even though not related to them in any temporal sense, it’s not a down payment; not a binder to ensure that someone will sit with us at our passing. It’s not that. We do it because we should; because it’s the right thing to do.

It’s no more involved than that.

Lucky Garvin

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