What I like best about this job are the moments you observe between people, moments that show the bonds that life creates, that show the love in people’s hearts, particuarly the love of a parent for a child.
We are sent for a two year old who has fallen through a glass table and is bleeding severely. We get there and the fire department has already wrapped it. They say it is a good sized gash. The boy is in his mother’s arms and is wailing away. The bleeding appears to have stopped. We transport the mother, boy and his three year old brother. The mother is Indian. She holds the crying boy, and she says, “Numba two baby, you give me so much trouble, but don’t worry, mother loves numba two baby, no matter what trouble you give me. ” And she kisses him. I watch as she smiles, admiring her screaming child.
We are sent for a violent psych, who turns out to be a ten-year old boy who has taken a golf club to a stop sign, then chased several of his neighbors with the now broken shaft. When we arrive he is in the back of a police car. His mother stands by the open backseat door, talking to the police officer about how they can’t get the boy’s medications right, while looking with concern at her son. I introduce myself to her, then she in turn, introduces me to her son. The boy is crying, sniffling. I ask him how he’s doing. “I’d rather not talk about it,” he says. “He’s had a hard day,” his mother says. I can see the sadness and tiredness in her eyes, but there is no anger there, no hint of a breaking point.
We are sent for an overdose. It’s not an overdose, but a mother who wants her son to get clean. He’s been smoking angel dust and acting like a fool,” she says. The man has a big smile as he watches his hands move slowly in front of his eyes. Stoned. As we lead him out of the house, his mother kisses him and said, “I love you, you stupid cabron, you come back here like this again, I’ll kill you.” She squeezes his hand as he goes by.
These moments all happened in the last week — small moments — that if you didn’t look for them you might not see them at all.
When I get home one night this week I find in the mail a bootleg CD I bought at EBay of the Springsteen Hartford Concert. I set it on the CD player and listen to it as I lay in bed after I turn out the light. The sound quality is excellent. I am struck by the lyrics to “Jesus Was an Only Son.”
Jesus was an only son
As he walked up Calvary Hill
His mother Mary walking beside him
In the path where his blood spilled
Jesus was an only son
In the hills of Nazareth
As he lay reading the Psalms of David
At his mother’s feet
A mother prays, “Sleep tight, my child, sleep well
For I’ll be at your side
That no shadow, no darkness, no tolling bell,
Shall pierce your dreams this night”
In the garden at Gethsemane
He prayed for the life he’d never live,
He beseeched his Heavenly Father to remove
The cup of death from his lips
Now there’s a loss that can never be replaced,
A destination that can never be reached
A light you’ll never find in another’s face,
A sea whose distance cannot be breached
Well Jesus kissed his mother’s hands
Whispered, “Mother, still your tears,
For remember the soul of the universe
Willed a world and it appeared.”
-Jesus Was an Only Son
I am not a religious man. I believe that when you are dead you are dead. I want to be as good a person as I can be while I am here. Not that I am, but I want to always try.
Sometimes our patients can help show us the way.
Years ago I read a great short story by Andre Dubus called “A Father’s Story.” It is about a priest who finds out his daughter has killed a man in a hit and run accident, and when the police come late in the story and ask him if he knows anything, in anguish, he lies to them. The story ends where he talks to God, and he tells God if it had been one of his sons, he could have turned him in because his sons are strong and he could bear watching them suffer, but his daughter… He asks God if Jesus was God’s daughter rather than his son, would he have been able to send her to her death. Very powerful story. A story about a parent’s limitless love.