June 14, 2010

Where Love Lives

The twelfth floor is where love lives. I walk down the corridor, and most rooms have open doors. Very few people are alone here. A middle-aged man is feeding a small woman with thin white hair. Another person missing a leg is gently supported as she makes her way slowly down the hall. A young mother has her almost-new baby with her as she sits with her father, the generations keeping vigil. The man’s wife comes with food made at home in the kitchen where he has cooked for her for years. Machines beep and whir and drip and count. Those who were once full of vitality have their vital signs carefully monitored. The staff is quiet, polite, efficient, responsive.

When I leave, the middle-aged man is sitting by the bed just holding the old woman's (his mother?) hand. She is quiet and so is he. The next day, the room is empty, and I think to myself that she has gone home – whatever that means. I wonder how long he stayed there with her, and I know that his love somehow lingers.

This is what love is: watching and feeding and touching and talking when there is nothing else left to do. It is not moonlight and candlelight and wine and roses. It is biopsies and bedpans, tears mixed with laughter, sadness and pain and memories and prayers. And it is all there, on the twelfth floor.

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