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The door burst open, announcing the EMTs.
“Mom, you’re going to be OK,” Paul said even as he moved back to allow the to emergency responders to do their jobs.
“I don’t want to be OK!” She sounded as if she were in agony. “I want perfect peace. No pain. No tears.”
Paul stood there staring as the emergency responders worked on his mother, muttering to one another. It might have taken a few minutes; it might have taken forever, but eventually they got her up on the gurney.
One of the women approached him. “She’s reacting to chemo?” She must have talked to his mother a bit.
Paul nodded. He was regarded as quite the scientist, but he couldn’t even think about what medications his mother was taking. His intelligence was failing. He had his wretched father’s build and strength, but that couldn’t fight a single cancerous cell. “The list of medications is on the fridge.” The words came out like he was back in college trying to remember a particularly tricky formula.
The woman nodded.
“Where are you taking her?” Paul asked.
Of course, they were taking her to where she got all of her treatments. Why would take her anywhere else.
The woman helped her partner raise the gurney and they moved toward the ambulance. Paul wasn’t sure if he locked, or even shut, the door behind himself. He just followed the EMTs out to the ambulance. He didn’t know if people were allowed to ride in an ambulance or not, but no one stopped him from climbing inside.
The trip was quiet. Whether they gave his mother something to help her sleep, or the pain had faded, she seemed to be breathing deeply in sleep. Paul realized he was watching her chest rise and fall again. Every breath was somehow a relief and a threat.
The ambulance came to a stop, and Paul tried to stay out of the way as they pulled out his mother and rushed her into the emergency room. Paul stopped in the waiting area and watched his mother be carted away.
She wants to die. Death is a release to her.
A part of Paul remembered something about death being a good thing to Christians. It had to have been something someone said during Bill’s funeral.
Paul stumbled around, stunned. A distant part of him knew that it would be a long time before anyone knew anything. He just wandered, trying to process what his mother had said. She was obviously in a lot of pain. Was she fighting just to stay with him? Did he want her to suffer like this just for the chance to live longer?
He didn’t even look up as he walked. The white-tiles on the floor of the hospital was the only way he knew he was moving.
He didn’t want to lose her, but he didn’t want her to suffer.
The tile floor suddenly turned into a dark, thin carpet. Paul looked up to see a religious area. He certainly didn’t know enough about Christianity or Catholicism to know which the room was built around, but the stain glassed windows that lined the walls to his left and right certainly depicted scenes even he could remember from reading the Bible all those years ago.
A strange chuckle escaped Paul. One day ago, he’d have grumbled and turned around. He would have been annoyed at just being around a church. That day, Paul realized he would have had to wind up right exactly there. The room was empty. It was strangely quiet given that it was tucked inside a deep corner of a hospital. Four rows of pews led to a small stage where a cross hung behind a podium.
Paul walked to the far-back pew and sat down.
“Are you here?”
“Figures,” Paul said. “You never really wanted me to talk to you; did you, Nobody?”
Nobody didn’t want Paul to seek him for guidance. Bill didn’t give advice based on what he thought. They always wanted Paul to go to the one being Paul never really wanted to acknowledge.
He looked up, and tears flowed from his eyes.
“I think you hate me.” The words came out in a soft, chocking manner. Even though he wanted nothing more than to sit there and weep, he didn’t know what else to do.
“I know I said I hate you. You made that man my father. Then you gave me Bill and took him away. I was so angry.”
His head sank. It took him a few moments to gather himself.
“I am angry. I’m angry all the time, and I don’t want it. But if you are there, then you’re really in charge. If I live in a universe created by an all-powerful God, I have to acknowledge that, that same God is in charge of everything. So I’m powerless. You can do whatever you want. Bill said that what you want most is people to come to you. Nobody said that, too.”
He wasn’t really sure what he was saying. His words were more about collecting his thoughts than anything else.
“I’m alone. My mom is in there, and she wants to die, but even if she survives this, we all die.”
His voice cracked as more tears fell. “You can do whatever you want. Just please don’t let her hurt anymore.”
He fell forward, resting his arms on the pew in front of himself and burring his head in his arms.
“I don’t want to lose her. I don’t want to be alone. But I don’t want her to hurt either. I don’t know why you took Bill. I don’t even know who Nobody is or why he hasn’t appeared in so long. All I know is I love my mother, and if anyone is going to save her, it has to be you.”
He looked up. “I’m sorry I hated you. If you’re there, you’re the being in charge of everything, and all I’ve done my whole life is try to fight you.” Paul spread his arms. “I’m done. You can do whatever you want with me. You can do whatever you want to me. I deserve it. I’m angry. I’m violent. I push everyone away. So I I deserve it.”
Paul looked out the door of the church, or whatever it was called. He couldn’t really be sure where his mother was, but he wanted to believe he was looking in her direction. “But she’s done everything I know a person who follows you should. And she’s tried so hard to get me to surrender to you. She’s been patient. Sh—“ He needed another few moments to collect himself. “If you’re there, you’re the one who decides when a person lives or dies. Just don’t let her hurt anymore.”
He waited another moment.
“But please save her. I need her. I know, that if you’re real, it’s moronic to fight you. It’s just plain stupid to go against you, so of course I need you. I just … please don’t take her from me now. But please don’t make the time I get with her painful.”
He gave another of those odd chuckles. “I keep saying ‘if.’ I don’t know anything. But I think … I think you’re real. And that wouldn’t change if you saved her or you didn’t. I’m just asking, even though I’m the last person you should ever do anything for. My whole life I thought that if you were real, that you owed me, but that was never true. You don’t owe anyone anything. You didn’t have to make us. So I get it. This isn’t a trade. This isn’t a bargain. All I can do is ask, so I’m asking.”
Paul let his head rest on his arm again. He’d said all he could think to say. He didn’t know where else to go, so he just sat there. Eventually, his tears ended and sleep arrived.
… to be continued …