- Vol. 04
- Chapter 03
Behind the CurtainWhen Ollie and I walk through the halls of the emergency department we move slowly, deliberately, and listen for the murmurs or moans coming from behind the curtain. The smells are nothing like the smells of antiseptic that I feared as a child on those times when I accompanied my mother to a doctor or to visit a friend. Hospitals terrified me and at the time so did death. Now, death is routine, part of the dialogue, although I am not dying. At least not today.
My mother feared death, until it stared her in the face and then she stared back with equal ferocity. Nor did she want us to avert our eyes, so she became bold, determined, to die well. But seldom does one die well; one simply dies and death is holding the hand of everyone behind the blue curtain. It may hold gently, a soft reminder of one's mortality, it might grasp with frustration at its inability to succeed or with the grim satisfaction of success.
I have been behind the curtain watching this, and I have been behind the curtain, fearing the smell of death as its breath touched my cheek. Not yet, I am not ready yet--too much to do. Too many to love. My children need me--grown though they are, they have much to tell me before I step off the platform and leave them to contemplate their own mortality.
When Ollie and I walk through the halls of the emergency department, nurses and doctors smile, they stoop down to pet him, a small reprieve from the battle against grave illness or injury. They laugh. When Ollie and I walk through the halls of the emergency department we peer through the openings of the blue curtains to ask, "would you like a visit," and sometimes the answer will be a quiet "yes," or a family member's eager "of course," or a barely audible, "not today."
Behind the CurtainEven death notices our visits and steps aside so that Ollie can sniff a hand, offer a gentle lick, maybe even put his paws on the edge of the bed, careful not to step on any of the tubes and wires connecting the patient to monitors and stabilizing fluids.
When Ollie and I walk through the halls of the emergency department, we listen, we pause, and sometimes we stop so that he can breath life into the frightened soul of the person behind the blue curtain.