Sometimes it’s a joke both of you know is not really funny
but in that moment you laugh richly,
and for a hair’s breadth
the pain subsides.
Clarity rushes in,
and you can open your tear-filmed eyes
and blood-thump muffled ears
a little wider,
to receive the next instructing,
the next diagnostic prodding.
It’s the sincere warning that it will hurt, a lot,
and she is not sure if it will work,
but that she will do her best.
Or that she takes the time to ask how to pronounce your name,
even if you are one of a dozen people she will see that day,
and tells you how well you are doing,
through the panting breath and unintelligible moaning.
It’s the realization of the preciousness of true connective presence
when most people walk by you on the sidewalk
with the speed you knew just a few days ago,
but now seems like a dream clouded over with sharp despair;
the few who offer help,
who give even a sympathetic gaze,
who say with words or eyes
“I see that you are suffering now, and I wish you well,”
remind you that there is still humanity
That we’ve all been here,
in some way or other.
And to be humbled is to open
to a deeper level of compassion.
It is easy to forget the definition of care
in a world where nearly everyone is stuck in survival mode.
Seemingly unavoidable to let selfishness build wall after wall around our hearts’ homes,
until all we ever see are each other’s backs,
or the ubiquitous resting bitch face that cannot register
recognition of another soul,
because the facade is so disconnected from the center.
I want to live in a world where we care about each other.
Where we show that care as if our lives depend on it.
Because it does, it does.
And a moment in a care center
helps me remember
that people can do just that, not only as a function,
but as a gift.