A Short Story : Jolly Datta
It was a chilly Friday night. She was alone and scared. Waiting in the corner of the Emergency Room (ER) she was shivering with cold, engulfed in pain and consumed with an unknown fear, the fear of loneliness, the fear of worthlessness and the fear of being unloved. Inflicted by a splitting headache, her migraine was causing hallucinations. She could feel the warm embrace of her mom, kissing her forehead, assuring her that everything would be fine. She could barely keep herself alert. She saw a gentleman come and sit beside her as she struggled to smile. He could see that she was suffering and needed medical attention but couldn’t break the protocol of “waiting”.
Realizing that the “not so critical” people had a long wait, the gentleman decided to start a conversation.
“Hello, I am Adam”, he said as he held out his hand.
“I am Sarah”, she replied with a quivering voice, shaking his hand with hesitation.
As Adam felt her chilled hands, he asked, “You seem to be really sick, is there anything I could do to help you?”
“Yes, call the n-u-r-s-….” Before she could complete, she passed out and was about to fall when Adam rushed to hold her. Sarah was cold as ice. For a split second, Adam didn’t know what to do. He looked at Sarah, her cheeks were pale, her body was lifeless and her breath was cold.
Waiting outside the ER, Adam had a sudden feeling of ownership when the nurse asked, “Are you family?” Adam hesitatingly said, “No”.
“We need signatures on these forms giving consent to go ahead with the tests and treatment.”
“I’ll sign them”, said Adam, without even knowing what he was signing up for.
Adam signed on every page and waited restlessly in the waiting area. He couldn’t rationalize why he was restless. Adam is a musician who makes commercials for the hospital to raise funds for research. He volunteers with the oncology department and spends his spare time in the waiting area. It had been an unusual day for Adam. He had completed his work without much hassle and had thought he would go home early and enjoy his mom’s chicken soup. Compelled by habit, he took his usual round in the waiting area and for some unexplainable reason, stayed back much longer than usual.
Adam was woken up by the streak of morning ray escaping through the chipped edge of the wooden blinds. He didn’t realize how long he had been sleeping in that corner bench of the waiting area. The room was still flooded with several “not so critical” people. He walked up to the reception area to enquire about Sarah. He was directed inside. Looking for Sarah, he found his way to the oncology ward. Coincidently he knew the doctor who was in charge of Sarah from one of his earlier commercials. Learning all about Sarah and her illness, he suddenly felt a stabbing pain making him feel weak. He also realized that he was famished and had nothing since the previous evening. Sarah was asleep and from her records Adam could find a home phone number. He didn’t know how to call and break the news of her terminal illness. Gathering his courage, he dialed the number.
“Hello”, Adam heard a husky voice on the other end.
“Is this Sarah Garfield’s residence?”
“Yes, and who am I speaking to?”
“My name is Adam Williams and I am calling from the hospital to inform you about Sarah Garfield.”
“What about her?”
“Sarah has been diagnosed with Brain Cancer, advanced stage. Doctors are still running tests to confirm this. If confirmed, she may not be with us for long.”
“And who are you? And what are you doing with my wife?”
Adam was shocked at the insensitive remarks and decided to disconnect the call.
He suddenly realized the purpose of his daily visits to the waiting area. It was Sarah!
Sarah woke up to the nurse’s call, confused and unaware of her whereabouts. She felt numb and didn’t know what the nurse was asking about. Looking around the room, Sarah saw the man from the previous evening sitting on the couch, somewhat anxious. She was confused but nevertheless glad to see a familiar face.
“You are still here!”
“You passed out in my arms, I couldn’t leave you alone”.
Sarah kept staring at Adam, totally still, and in disbelief. Those were the most precious words she could even imagine being showered on her. She was speechless and a drop of tear trickled down her cheek.
This moment of joy was interrupted by a husky voice.
“So you have brain cancer now!”
Adam immediately recognized this voice and walked out of the room. But he couldn’t help himself from eavesdropping.
“I guess you are of no use to me now, not that you were earlier either! Moreover, your family has a history of cancer. I should have known what I was signing up for before I married you.”
Sarah was still, staring at the wall without any expression on her face. This was not the first time she was hearing those words.
“Well, the government is rich and can pay for your tests and treatment. I have no money to waste on you. I have signed the necessary discharge papers. Call me if you can’t come home alone” and he walked out.
Adam was waiting for this man to leave and rushed in immediately. To his surprise, Sarah was unnerved and cold. She was not affected by any of those seemingly harsh words because her heart had frozen long back and it had stopped to bleed…. But, she couldn’t believe she was dying!
Soon enough the word spread around the hospital about Sarah’s illness. There was a group of volunteers who work with the terminally ill people who are alone. They spend time with the patients and make them feel involved because no one deserves to die alone. Adam was also a part of the group and at this point he could only think of being with Sarah.
As the test results were coming in for Sarah, the initial diagnosis was gradually getting confirmed. Sarah didn’t show any outwardly signs of anxiety. She was calm but probably in denial. She seemed to be in a haze and kept thinking of her mom. Just the thought of being close to her mom gave her peace and serenity to her soul. It seemed that she was ready for her end and wanted to embrace it with love. It felt as good as being with mom.
Next morning when the nurses came in to check on Sarah, she seemed not to care. But something changed when Sarah noticed Adam chatting at the door with another gentleman. As soon as the nurses left, Adam came in with the new gentleman and asked Sarah, “Do you mind if we just sit here for some time?”
“Guess not”, said Sarah in a confused tone
“By the way, this is Mark. I was coming to check on you and I met him on the way, so just grabbed him along. Mark and I are old buddies from the John Lennon fan club “.
And then they started singing…. “You may say I am a dreamer but I am not the only one… “
Adam noticed a sudden change in her expression.
“Do you like John Lennon?”
Before long Sarah got involved in the conversation. Adam finally saw a ray of hope. Music was her life and poetry was her passion. Creativity was her middle name. Soon the three of them were chatting and laughing and discussing music like they have known each other for ever. The day went by so fast that Sarah didn’t even realize how tired she was feeling from the medicines and the tests. She wished she had little more energy to stretch the day longer. But Adam promised her that he would come back the next day and she could go to bed.
Next morning, Sarah woke up before the nurse came for her routine checkup. She was almost giving up when she heard the door cracking. Adam was cautious not to wake Sarah and slowly peeped inside but seeing her awake he pushed the door open and ran excited..
“Sorry to be little late but I have a surprise for you”.
“Since you are not hooked to the IVs any more, you can take a tour with me”.
Sarah couldn’t understand what Adam was up to.
“I got a two hours permit from the doctor to take you out”.
“But where are we going?”
“Well, that’s a surprise!”
Sarah was not very keen but nevertheless got up on her trembling feet to freshen up for her tour. Adam hadn’t told her the whole truth though. Since Sarah had a terminal illness and had no one to take care of, she was allowed to leave with one of the volunteers who would help her cope with reality with a positive attitude.
Adam took Sarah by her hand and helped her walk out of her room. With every baby step, Adam tried to cheer her up, to make her laugh and feel alive, once again. Her smile turned into laughter as they started walking out of the building and Adam saw the carefree soul that Sarah had been hiding within her. Adam had a surreal feeling of fulfillment. He could see Sarah was coming back to life again. He felt, he had served his purpose.
Adam and Sarah walked across the street and entered another building. Walking into the elevator, Adam pushed the button for the 8th floor. Little did Sarah know that her life was about to change forever. Little could she imagine what she saw as the elevator door opened. She stared around her in awe and couldn’t blink her eyes in disbelief. Adam snapped his fingers to break the spell and asked her, “Shall we?”
Adam opened the glass door of the children’s oncology ward. It was beautifully decorated. Sarah as if she was in Disney World, holding her mom’s fingers exploring the different activities for kids. The play area was packed with kids of all ages. Till then Sarah didn’t know that all of them had one thing in common with her, they all had cancer. Adam was surrounded by kids, he was hugging and cuddling them as his own. Sarah watched Adam from a distance and was amazed how he interacted with the kids and became part of the team in no time. He seemed to know each kid and parent in person. In Adam, Sarah could see a superior human being who knew no boundaries of love and showered it on all with utter selflessness. In Adam, she saw her angel who had come to teach her the real meaning of life. In Adam, she saw her mom who would take care of her without any conditions or expectations.
Two hours passed by in a blink of an eye and it all seemed like a dream to Sarah. Life was much more beautiful than it appeared within the walls of her house. She also learnt that life has infinite courage, courage that resided in little hearts, and touched all around them; that life with all its ugliness was beautiful and meant to be lived not simply endured. And that there is more love and hope around with angels like Adam who are god sent to spread the faith and keep the lights burning. For the first time in many years, she felt alive, she felt hopeful, she felt needed.
After an eventful day, Sarah felt quite exhausted and in no time she went into her blissful state of slumber. After a long time, she slept so well. Maybe it was to prepare her for the next day which would bring in a new realm of reality.
As the morning dawned on Sarah, the nurse was back and this time Adam and Mark accompanied her. She was jubilated to see the two gentlemen but at the same time skeptical. Several questions raced through her as she sat on her bed and let the nurse do her job. Adam and Mark were their usual silly selves and greeted Sarah in their unique ways. After the nurse was done taking the vitals, she took out a paper which needed Sarah’s consent. It read, “Do Not Resuscitate”. Mark was quick enough to sit beside Sarah and hold her hand while Adam took the paper to read it to Sarah.
For the following few minutes, Sarah seemed to go back to her hazy self where she showed no interest in anything. It was not just a piece of paper to sign; it was signing her life away. Being terminally ill, didn’t make her eligible for life support or any CPR treatment if her heart sank during any procedure. It was a lot to deal with at that moment but she had her guardian angel, her mom, taking care of her through those two gentlemen. Sarah signed wherever Adam pointed without any hesitation. She knew what was coming and she was ready to face it. She was not scared any more. She was not alone and she had come to know that her life had a much broader meaning and a bigger purpose to fulfill.
Right after signing the papers, Sarah turned to Adam and said, “I want to be one of you.”
Adam didn’t understand at first but soon realized what Sarah was referring to. Sarah wanted to volunteer in the hospital and work with the terminally ill people who have no one to take care of them. But her heart was in the pediatric oncology ward where life was so beautiful, where hope overshadowed the unnerving pain that the kids went through. It was the Disneyland for many of them, many who might never even learn to spell the words. It was where mothers tucked their children every night with the hope that they would see them for one more day. It was with these kids that Sarah found her hope for a new beginning, a reason for living and a greater meaning of the wonderful life she had been bestowed.
It had been already 7 days since Sarah had come to the ER and the series of tests and immediate treatments were almost over. It was time for Sarah to leave the hospital. She was not looking forward to it but she was prepared. Her scars were deep but she felt no pain. Because she was touched by the angels and her wounds were healed. They had restored her faith in God and the belief that no one is alone. She realized that there was so much love around that one lifetime may be too short to experience it all. Yes, it was love, which she was looking for and finally she found it in those little kids who blessed her with their innocence and resilience.
And it was with angels like Adam and Mark, that the world was a better place to live in; “On earth, as it is in Heaven”.