“Strike! Oh yah!” Anna danced in jubilance when her neon orange bowling ball hit the pocket and sent all ten pins tumbling down. She returned high fives and grins from her cheering friends. Friday night out with “the girls” was just what Anna needed.
“Tweep tweep.” Anna’s spirits nosedived. For the first time since being named attending at Mercy General, her pager’s interruption distressed Dr. Anna Cowart. She had lost three patients this week. Three! Now her “services” were needed again. She reluctantly picked up her cell phone and dialed the hospital’s number.
Usually seeing her blue Camry parked in the spot marked
DR. ANNA COWART
swelled Anna, making her sacrifice of family, meals, and sleep worthwhile, but not tonight. She sighed and stowed her keys. I wonder whose life depends on me now? After losing Mr. Nichols yesterday, Anna had all but decided to quit. Self-deprecation was triumphing over her quest to save lives. I’m not doing any good. I made a huge mistake.
“Ma’am, my name is Dr. Cowart.”
“You kin call me Miss Beth, ever’one does.”
Anna melted at the warmth in her patient’s quavering voice. Miss Elizabeth Murphy had had the misfortune of walking out of the market just as a local boy whizzed by on his new skateboard. In addition to breaking countless bones in her frail, aged, body, “Miss Beth’s” skull had fractured when her head thumped the concrete sidewalk.
Her heart’s burden wrestled with Miss Beth’s infectious joy. Anna kept one ear tuned to the constant stream of jargon flowing from the nurses and interns as she examined Miss Beth.
“Do you know where you are?”
“Why I reckon I’m in a hospital. Least ways it shore sounds like one. Glad to know they put a female doctor in charge of me, I am."
“Can you tell me your name?”
“Folks has jus’ called me Miss Beth for years now. But I’us christened Elizabeth Margaret Murphy, if’n that’s what you mean.” Miss Beth’s green eyes twinkled with merriment, but Anna didn’t like the unfocused stare and the dilated pupils.
This lady could have passed for Anna’s own sweet grandmother, gone five years now. Concern seeped into her professional doctor voice. “You’ve been hurt badly. Is there anyone we should call?”
“Oh, no. Never did marry. I bin by myself for many a year, an’ I done alright, upta now.” She chuckled even as her voice wavered.
I can’t do this any more. Where’s the good when death is the result? Why again? Why can’t I save her? Her life’s dream lay shattered. Today Anna would turn in her resignation. Miss Beth would the last person to die at her hands.
Yanked back from her journey into herself, Anna rejoined her team in the trauma room. “One cc epi.” Her eyes blazed with fervor; she resolved to make a difference somehow.
Miss Beth warbled, “Doc, forgive me, but you seem a might down an’ distracted ‘bout sumpthin’.
At death’s door she senses that? How can she worry about me? Anna administered the injection but still Miss Beth’s vital signs faltered.
Her trembling voice weakened further. “I ain’t got long, now. No, no, don’t try an’ patronize me. I kin tell. Listen up, this is important. There’s sumpthin’ I need ta tell you afore I leave this wrinkled ole body.
“I bin blessed with a gift for readin’ people. I kin tell when sumpthin’s botherin’ a person, an’ if’n the Good Lord sees fit I kin figger out what. Now, I’m pretty shore you bothered at the idea a my passin’ on yore watch."
Miss Beth could barely produce a hoarse whisper at this point. Anna leaned closer.
“Ever’ day, circumstances is throwed at us. Sometimes you kin see ‘em commin’ atcha from a ways off. Those is things you kin try’n head off. But comes times when sumpthin’ jus’ jumps atcha unexpected like, an’ all the good deeds an’ good intentions in the world ain’t gonna stave it off. Those things is God’s will, and it ain’t no use fightin’ Him.
“ I know you doin’ yore best ta try an’ save me, that’s yore callin’. I’m shore you a fine doctor, but you gotta realize sumpthin’ - you ain’t God. If’n He’s decided ta call me home, why then I’m ready ta go.”
Miss Beth wheezed one last contented breath, and as the monitor’s “beep beep” became a solid whine, Anna began to rethink her decision.
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