Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Unsung Hero (12/07/06)
By Brad Paulson
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Memories appear and disappear like the glimmers of sunlight on the snow. I’m racing to the hospital hoping and praying with every ounce of energy that God will save my father. Walking into the hospital room, the tears on my sister’s face tell the story. My father, unconscious and unresponsive, laboring for each breath, unaware of our presence. Inside I am screaming, “Lord, give me five minutes. Wake him for just a moment so I can talk to him.” The sound of his labored breathing disorients me, my sister’s tears continue to flow, I break down.
A breeze rustles the pine needles in the trees, one of my father’s favorite sounds. The air is cold but the warmth of the sun unlocks the sweet smells of the forest. I stare at the plastic bag that contains my father’s ashes. My greatest hero, the greatest man I’ve ever known, reduced to a bag of gray powder.
“You have to make a decision soon. Do you have power of attorney for health care?” My mind is spinning. I can’t concentrate.
“Yes we do,” my sister tells the doctor. She is stronger than I am. I can’t make her do this on her own.
“We can do surgery to relieve the pressure on his brain, but the damage is so extensive that it is unlikely he will regain consciousness. The procedure may prolong his life, but is unlikely to improve the quality of his life. You need to decide now if you want the surgery, his condition is deteriorating every minute.” My sister is unable to speak. It’s my turn to be strong.
I cut off the top of the bag containing my father’s ashes and some gray powder spills onto my hand. I’m horrified and comforted at the same time. So much emotion wells up in me, I scream. The mountains echo back my cries, a symphony of grief. Who will be there for me now? Whenever I needed him, he was there, regardless of the circumstances. No problem was too big for him. I had complete confidence with him in my corner. Nothing was required from me in return for his help, not even appreciation. He was just there.
Fumbling through the documents, his wishes are clear. “We have to let him die.” My voice trembles with the finality of the decision. Any hope of another conversation or any kind of interaction is gone. I feel sick to my stomach. Nurses and doctors scurry around, business as usual. Don’t they know what is happening here? The most important person in the world to me is slipping away. They have no idea who he is, how important he is, how loved he is. Their concern seems to be focused on how soon the bed will be available.
The gray powder begins mixing with the trickling waters of the melting snow as I sprinkle it on the ground. The colored water frantically zigzags over and around obstacles until it finds its way to the river bank. As the colored water pours into the river, it forms an underwater cloud. I think of heaven. The cloud is caught up in the current and flows downstream, dissipating as it goes, and then he’s gone. I sit on a rock and cry for a while, nothing is left of my hero except memories and a few trinkets. Preparing to leave I try to make a mental note of the landmarks that surround me. I may never be able to find this exact location again so I carve my fathers initials in a tree near the river’s edge. The birds continue to sing, the sun continues to shine and the river continues to flow, as if nothing ever happened.
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