Following the completion of my nightly chat with a higher power, and unexpectedly as my eyes began to close – pending sleep was no more than a minute or two away…
Some nights are different. This night was different than most.
Stepping towards me, she displayed a special look always reserved for anguish. It wasn’t her norm; through the many years of our professional acquaintance we had grown to respect one another. Until then, I had never seen this lady with anything other than an uplifting countenance.
Late in the day, following a pleasant audition, our conversation became a personal one. In less than a few short moments, she conveyed the troubles of a Mother concerned over the welfare of her child. She anguished over the pending report of the serious medical tests her daughter had recently undergone.
I wonder if there is any word more harrowing than cancer, especially when it is attached to the possibility of invading a family’s solitude. For once the ominous word is spoken, retraction of what may occur will be with you forever, whether cured or not.
But long before incidents came to me with the truest of meanings, I played with a 16 year old’s vicarious portions – of life not yet fostering any wounds deep or severe enough to mar my reckless exuberances.
Some folks hide from any form of stimuli, as they pray for sleep to come quickly using a variety of quirky psychological tricks. I was no more than 16 when our family moved into an older Spanish style home in the Beverly-Wood area of West Los Angeles. I had the wonderment of a full bathroom attached to the room I slept in; for me, it seemed like a hotel suite all to myself. But there was one little problem – the bathroom sink had a slow and relentless dripping faucet.
Under normal circumstances, a constant dripping of water would be tantamount to torture. For me, it became how many drips could I count before falling asleep. My life has always been a game of challenges.
It was before my nightly prayer ritual was installed, and my first feeling of my own personal mortality was still three years away. I do remember feeling myself smile on many nights just before sleep arrived – always-joyous thoughts of our team winning an important baseball game. Like I said, I had not yet felt my mortality. The names of common human maladies were not a real part or place in my life, as yet. At 16, I listened to the drip and fell fast asleep, not a worry in the world about me or anyone else.
Its nice to be 16, for many of us it was fun and games.
In the Army, without any form of graciousness this 19 year old was unceremoniously introduced to the vacuous graying of human skin brought on by the human assumptions of fear. Mortality became real for me before the subsiding of my 19thyear.
And, as I pronounced my thankfulness on this different evening of my life, thoughts of this Mother – with the gray look she shared as the story of her daughter was told – dominated until another man’s words were recalled.
A soldier friend of mine had just returned from taking communion in a special tent the Chaplain had set up for services of all denominations. Fear has no religious preferences, I guess.
We called him “Bruiser,” and the name was as apropos as you could get. Jokingly, I said to Bruiser when he returned from his evening Mass, “Yes, as a matter of fact I did.”
He had a very serious expression when he answered me.
Bruiser’s words ended my evening prayer as my thoughts of that afternoon, when this Lady with the vacuous gray look shared her fear for her daughter’s welfare with me, returned.
Bruiser’s words became my wishes for the woman and her daughter as my eyes became heavy, “Lord, may they feel your presence.”
Note: Ultimately, the news was good.