Summer’s Heartbeat

regard by ben seidelman on flickrOn some summer nights, it seems the world is brighter, more visible in a quiet way, as if the dusk was created for your pleasure. On some summer nights, it seems you can see through the false dome of sky to what lies beyond, air glimmering just for you.

There’s a vertiginous sense that the heavens are just about to fall, that strange unproven sense of doom we mistake for true prescience. It’s a symptom of a heart attack too—sense of impending doom—caused by a bit of agitated electricity hitchhiking from damaged unhearing tissue to a nerve that will translate its message in the language of emotion and spurred survival.

Or is doom the electrical wave of a migraine washing the shores before finding its well-traveled path, the ram’s horn arc from eye to nape, hot flicker at the jawbone and eye?

A friend and I once stood on a darkened street in summer, commiserating about how we’d find a way to bleed ourselves after menopause, apply leeches, submit to the blood donation center’s pipe-like needles. We’d just need to see it, feel it go, leaving ourselves diminished and cleansed, we both said. [Read more…]

The Case For Charlie Gard

charlie gard photo by PA Press Association on the Sun (uk)Charlie Gard, the English child you see here, will likely die—indeed, by the time this is published, he may have already died. Charlie has Mitochondrial DNA Depletion Syndrome, which in short means that through some catastrophic chain of rare events, his bodily functions are failing him. No cure has been found for this disease.

Still, Charlie’s parents want to expend every effort on their infant son. They and others have raised millions to do so through various fundraising sites. There are hospitals that have offered to take him on—a one in a million chance at a treatment in America—and the Pope and the U.S. President have offered to aid the parents’ efforts. All know that Charlie has little chance, but want to try anyhow.

But to the world’s amazement, it seems the parents are not going to be given that chance. Through some Dickensian brew of law and situational ethics, an English Hospital, Great Ormond Street, as well as judges—someone named “Mr. Justice Francis” of the “European High Court”—and politicians—London Mayor Boris Johnson, among others, get to say whether it’s time to give up on Charlie’s treatment. And they, not Charlie’s mother and father, have decreed not only that Charlie must be let die, but also that they have the authority to say so.

Somehow, it doesn’t matter how much his parents are willing to do, or how much others are willing to “waste” on a hopeless case. If it’s hopeless, resources are better spent elsewhere, the masters opine—albeit with brows knitted in distress, with grim smiles of understanding at how heartbreaking their decision is “for all concerned.” They assure us their hearts are heavy.

[Read more…]

Epiphany in the Memory Unit

Image of a profile of a person's face with light illuminating the cheeks and forehead, the face is shrouded by a round blurry object in the foreground.By Cameron Dezen Hammon.

The priest’s wife handed me her half full can of beer. It was Christmastime, and the beer she was offering was a Texas IPA, sweating seductively on the table between us. I brought the can to my lips and the slightly bitter taste of the half-warm beer filled me with relief.

I needed a drink. It was 7 p.m., and I’d arrived late. We would be heading out to sing carols at the Alzheimer’s unit of a local nursing home, a well-appointed facility near the neighborhood in Houston where I am a music minister and where the priest’s wife’s husband is rector.

The nursing home smelled faintly of Clorox and overcooked vegetables—as I suppose all nursing homes do—but I had been unprepared for the regret that hit me with that smell. [Read more…]

Hea i ka Haku

david-salafia-office-still-life-on-flickrBy Marlene Muller

On day two we fired the harpist.

“The music is really very lovely,” the nurse had explained, as if we’d never heard a harp before. My sister and I sat facing each other in plastic chairs on either side of a hospital bed. We watched the nurse smear Vaseline on our mother’s lips. Our mother’s eyes were closed, and she continued the loud, gurgled breathing that began after she lost consciousness from her second stroke one floor below us in the emergency room.

“She’s played for several patients and the families are always so grateful. I’ll give her a call and let you know when she’s available.”

We thanked the nurse. We watched her peel off her purple latex gloves, flip open the garbage pail with one foot, and drop the gloves in the can. “No problem,” she said, and left, pulling the door closed behind her.

I turned to my sister, “No harpist.”

“No harpist,” she agreed.

The first stroke hit my mom at home. My sister had stopped by to say hello to her and noticed the right side of her face drooping. And her language was strange, although not in the usual way, not funny, but garbled. [Read more…]