Sinners and Saints

As each of us will ultimately find ourselves before our god, many will find themselves before their paramedic. But unlike their god, their paramedic does not sit in judgement. We treat all of our patients the same. That is the creed. The man in the Mercedes Benz gets the same care as the man pushing the shopping cart full of cans. The model gets the same priority as the toothless crack whore, the All-American the same careful assessment as the bed sore ridden amputee, the police officer the same professionalism as the thief.

Most of my patients are anonymous. But sometimes they are not. I have cared for famous politicians, athletes, entertainers, scholars, businessmen and criminals. Sometimes I like to talk to my patients. I ask them about their lives, how they ended up here on my stretcher, what lessons or regrets do they have from their journeys. When my patient’s public history is known to me, and I suspect my letting on that I know who they are will make them uncomfortable, I try not to let on that I know. I am just the paramedic and they are just the patient. I don’t ask the real questions I am thinking.

Some of these patients are old and jaundiced, their heart and organs are failing, their lungs filling up with water, their minds moving toward dementia. They are likely not the same people they were in their primes. There are pressing questions I would like to, but do not ask — questions I am interested in their reflections about. What was it like to change your position on an issue that had meant so much to you, just so you could advance your political career. Did your “move to the center” feel like you had sold your soul and everything that had gotten you into helping people in the first place just for that short burst of fame. How did it feel to buy that historic company, then close down the local factory and layoff all those people while you made millions? Was that miracle season where you seemed to strike batters out at will your greatest memory, or was it the time you spent with your family before the drugs found purchase in your soul? Did you really sleep with your young secretary while your wife lay in bed at home cancer-ridden? What was in your heart that late night when you raised your rifle and squeezed the trigger? Did you lament the bloodied lives you left on that killing floor?

I wonder up in heaven, if God has people who help prepare the new arrivals for their meeting with him — the meeting that determines whether they get a seat in the clouds or the trapdoor opens beneath them. If there are, I bet those assistants are much like us, professional and kind, treating sinner and saint the same, leaving the judging to the higher ups.

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