By S. A. Ward
The medical equipment hummed in a cadence that seemed to yearn for the world’s solace. Hospitals are a bittersweet reality, one that harbors the most compassionate and self-sacrificing healers of humanity. Such people have an innate desire to ease the suffering of others. There is as much love as there is sorrow, so many are left to rely on frail hope and are often confronted by the face of death. Their hopes and dreams to have more time with their loved ones, extinguished like a bonfire during an unexpected rainstorm. It’s a battleground between love and suffering.
I lay here knowing the days of my life are nearly expended and now leave me to confront my own fragile mortality. A few days ago my lung cancer was deemed terminal. How long I may have is hanging upon a frail thread. All those years of taking care of myself. Never smoked, never drank or did drugs yet here I lay. I thought it could never happen to me and yet it did.
I let out several hacking coughs, feeling as though my body is trying it’s absolute best to expel this pestilence. For a moment I laid back, making an effort to catch my breath. I glanced over to my right elbow, dark crimson splotches were scattered throughout the area. My lungs feel as though hot charred embers have been embedded into them. Every breath I take inflicts a searing pain, like hot needles are suspended in the center of my lungs. I want to live but not like this, my life has unfortunately become void of purpose and meaning, it is creating a tear in my soul. Always short of breath, leaves me with a feeling that my own body has betrayed me. It’s rather mundane and depressing, bound to this room, unable to explore and left to wither away. If I were to try and go out for some fresh air or a walk, it could be the last thing I do. The only way I can remain alive is with all this machinery. Earlier this week I endured a heart attack to which I survived but at what cost? It is driving me mad and has led me to truly question whether or not there is a God. How can such suffering possibly exist, why allow it? I just don’t understand, my prayers seem to have gone unanswered… Before I had a chance to collect myself, a sense of dread overcame me. A sharp pain ripped into my chest, the medical equipment began conveying signs of concern to the medical staff. Nurse Ashley and several others came into my room. They frantically tried to assess the situation, dreading and knowing that they would only delay my inevitable death. The three urgently tried to figure out a solution to stabilize me, “She is going into cardiac arrest!”
I grabbed one of the nurse’s wrists and managed to convey a few words of desperation, “Please… let.. me go…”
The two nurses and doctor looked at each other, pain quickly formed in their eyes. Having to process the weight of my final request. They desired to ease my suffering but knew that not letting me go would only prolong it. The medical team looked at one another for confirmation, tears of grief and sorrow clutched their souls. Nurse Morgan grabbed one of my hands, as did the doctor. They gave me my last moments of silence as I fell into unconsciousness.
Everything I could see or hear began to distort into a myriad of oblivion. It was as though the gaze of eternity beaconed for my return. Whispers of fleeting dreams called for me, the boundaries of reality dissolved and were overcome by a maelstrom of creation. Before my very being, whatever I had become, the events of my life began to unfold. However, it wasn’t solely from my perspective, there were instances as if someone had captured such events without my knowledge. Countless experiences I had long forgotten, it was beyond surreal being able to see my life from the view of someone other than my own. Almost as though it wasn’t my life, but I knew it was mine. It brought forth a feeling of such ecstasy and boundless joy. Seeing such detail of others’ actions, to which I could only ponder the truth at the time. The truth often eluded me it seems. The little things that escaped my mind’s reach, death was always so close… It provided me with missing pieces to a sort of puzzle. Unsolved mysteries and secrets of my life thought to be lost to time. It allowed me to connect the dots, the web of effects from my decisions unraveled before me. Dormant memories and actions from my youth that shaped who I was to become in my adult years. Being able to see my childhood… myself playing with my beloved mother… my father… siblings… and grandparents… now I remember… I remember why we suffer… The dots aligned, my purpose, our purpose, the choices of those long before me. The goal and zenith from which we fell and seek to return to.
My awareness then seemed to fade, as though I was falling asleep. How long I was out for I don’t know. When I awoke, I found myself mesmerized by the sight before me. I laid on my back amidst enchanting grass hills that were accompanied by an ocean of stars painting the night sky. There were countless celestial bodies I had never seen before, 4 moons that dwarfed the magnitude of the only one I can remember on Earth. Galactic nebulae grasped their own corners and shooting stars rippled throughout the heavens. The grass around me was long but tamed and seemed like it would be great for napping. I came to notice a singular and simplistic dirt path not too far off from my location.
I decided to stand up and found I was able to move my body in such a youthful way. My hands… they weren’t wrinkled and aged… same for the rest of my body… my hair… curly blonde hair… full of life… all signs of my elderly age and cancer were completely gone. The way I was able to perceive existence, it was as though I was gifted with the vision of God. Total clarity of mind and the infinite joy of a child. Time held no relevance, as though I was unbound by the chains of the human condition, and I’ve returned to a state of pure freedom. I could see an unusually large owl perched on the greatest height of a rogue tree as it conveyed its call. The orchestra of the local wildlife claimed the night’s air. A gentle breeze graced the land, causing the grass to sway in a mesmerizing way. What appeared to be blue lightning bugs could be seen expressing their beauty as they cascaded through the blissful dark. The entire spectacle made me feel so tranquil and at peace.
In the near distance I noticed a man walking down the dirt path, getting closer to my immediate area. I had an intuitive sense that I should speak with him. He wore what seemed like a monk’s garb. His brown scalp and facial hair were well groomed. This enigmatic man had silver eyes that made me weep over their ethereal beauty. I went to give speaking a go, “excuse me–” I had to stop and listen to my voice for a moment. Even my voice had regained its youthful tone. I composed myself and tried to ask again, “Excuse me… sir, can you tell me where we are or what is even going on? I thought I had died of cancer well into my 50s… then the unimaginable happened…”
He smiled at me, it caused my soul to well up and overflow with such a deep sense of joy, “A story of enlightenment and redemption.”
That intuitive feeling grasped my mind once again, “Are you… God…?”
He grabbed hold of my right hand and gently clasped it with both of his, “Yes but that title isn’t mine alone. What is God? Better yet, what isn’t God? We are each a reflection of God, existence itself is an expression of God and is God.” He shifted his gaze down the dirt path and looked back to me, “Haley, care to join me for a walk?”
I was elated and grateful he asked, becoming bubbly, enveloped in serene bliss, “I’d love to and of course you already know my name. I have so many questions. What’s your name?”
He placed a hand on my right shoulder, “I’d be honored to provide you with answers, and you can call me Sen.” We proceeded to depart, to where I did not know but my soul… my inner compass told me that I did not need to worry.
Sen spoke first, “The existence prior to this, on Earth, teaches us countless lessons that are a necessity in this life we are in now. Our frail mortality grants us the capability to learn the value of life. Like a common love, a common suffering creates unbreakable bonds as well. Being able to relate with someone is to be truly heard or seen.”
I made quick glances at him and nodded my head, making a strong effort to listen, “Why must life be so difficult?”
“You likely have heard the saying, the road to Heaven passes straight through Hell. Being given everything you desire without resistance would be a rather strange ordeal too. Imagine a story where the hero leaves home and claims what he desires without much resistance, without having truly been tested. Linear, boring, and predictable. It doesn’t capture the true essence of life and there would be no lessons to be learned from it. Life is an existence of both infinite beauty and infinite horror. It is organic, more grounded in truth and reality. Being negligent of reality’s horrors is to submit to its will.”
I shifted my body towards him as we continued on our adventure, “I agree, experience and being told something are vastly different. Books and stories can tell us a great deal but actual experience, the roots go so much deeper and are almost like a spontaneous test. There are so many fine details that we don’t give the attention they deserve when learned by reading or hearsay. Someone can tell you how something feels or what a strawberry tastes like all they want but you never truly know until you eat one for yourself. What of those who endure abject suffering?”
“Suffering and pain are key proponents for growth. Like everything, moderation is a necessity. We desire to reach Infinity’s edge and that comes at a cost. Those who endure such suffering come into this existence with the will of a titan. Their suffering does not go unnoticed nor without regard I assure you.”
I went into intense thought, to which I couldn’t help but agree and wonder what is Infinity’s edge, “What is Infinity’s edge?”
Sen looked at me, smiling as a blue lightning bug casted its ethereal light onto his face, “You will learn of that soon, for now there are other subjects we must visit first. What is a critical lesson you learned from your life on Earth?”
I accepted his response then took a moment to sift and organize my thoughts. As I stopped walking, so did he, I looked at the enthralling wonder around me. Taking in the beauty, reflecting on my life and then all as of recent, “We yearn for the past, yet during those times we yearned in the hope of a ‘better’ future. Hoping it bore more fruit than the present which leads to a contradiction of desire. Not acknowledging or being aware, we already have what we once desired at a past period of our lives. Leaving us unable to fully assess the depths of inconceivable potential before us… but… What is a century or the concept of a year to an eternity?”
“Great question, the year only holds a frail grasp of relevance on Earth and its arbitrary planetary orbital cycle. What’s a year if Earth were to be destroyed or removed from the equation? It also hangs upon the fragility of the human condition, a human’s average lifespan and their body’s durability; these can be strong indicators for how much potential progress someone can muster. However, the sense of feeling incomplete is a trap, a paradox and is rooted in corruption. It’s like a cognitive comatose, left to drift through life in a sort of daze. Whether one conquers or is conquered by the horrors of reality when they have no choice but to confront them, dictates if they awaken or return to being cognitively asleep. Being asleep in this sense allows the present to slip through our fingers like sand, absent of ever having truly lived and leaves us with distorted memories of what once was. Our minds deceive us, it filters and skews the external world, leaving it open for short sighted and superficial interpretations. Think of them as cognitive chains that are lifted in this life and grant us with a profound sense of relief.”
I pondered what he just told me, looking off into the vast expanse of infinite beauty. I had a slew of realizations come into my mind, “We are left with fragments of existence… A dream of existence… What is a dream if not a fragmented reality?”