Melvin

What are you waiting for to begin?

Melvin sat all day in the corner of his dingy little apartment in a contraption that was part reclining wheelchair and part restraint. Velcro canvas straps kept his head from falling too far forward and held his legs and torso in place. He was free to use his forearms and hands, but they trembled violently with any attempt at expression. He lost his ability to completely swallow this morning. He will most likely die from ALS within a week or two.

It was difficult for me to shake off the feeling of what it would be like to be trapped and confined in that chair. But I got a great lesson on not jumping to assumptions about how people are coping.

Melvin’s well-intended words were too garbled for me to fully understand. I gave him permission to just nod best he could to yes and no questions. It quickly became clear that while it was nearly impossible for him to speak, Melvin was alert and quite sharp by his ability to communicate by nodding his confined head to my questions about pain, hunger and how frustrated I thought he must be. My questions grew from superficial inquiries about the physical to the roots of how badly he must be suffering.

Melvin was at peace with his state of being. His big brown eyes reflected an essence about him that spoke of absolute ease. He held himself in a state of contentment that I long for.

I have been told by the dying that contentment can come from knowing there is nothing left to fret over or plan for. There are no more worries about the future or how the bills are going to get paid. I asked him if this was true for him. His eyes grew wide as he attempted a vigorous nod for yes.

After my inquiry about his non existent suffering, I took his vital signs. I made simple one-sided conversation about things like the weather, the beautiful golden retriever I met in the lobby, and the incredible artwork that graced his walls.

I took a closer look at the lovely framed paintings that decorated his apartment. I found myself overjoyed to find his name painted onto the corner of each one. They were beautiful watercolors of gorgeous women and famous poets.

With one hand over my amazed heart, I said sincerely, “I’ve always wanted to try watercolor.” He slowly raised his trembling arms and said the only clear word I have ever heard him say. With robust sincerity he said, “Begin!”

I’m not sure what I’m waiting for to begin. I frequently say I am waiting for the muse or contentment in other areas of my life. I am guilty of justifying postponing my desire with the fact that I don’t have the time right now. I say out loud to myself and to you, there is no way to know if there is enough time left to wait for the muse.

What are you waiting for to begin?

 

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