“She’s back,” the nurse observed.
The doctor wanted to respond with something snappy, but also playful, to lighten the mood within this weary intermittence.
“So I see,” for instance, but she could feel crumbles of sleep forming in the corners of her eyes, even though she hadn’t sat down since it had been dark the time before.
“Crumbles” was the term her father used when she was a girl, like the dust came from bits of muffin. She thought of him often on such nights, how she missed him so much and yet somehow still felt as close to him as ever, even though he’d been gone so long, which was like a miracle she couldn’t do without.
The ICU was always quiet now. Hardly anyone came to visit during these hours, and fewer in the early months of the year, but every night the woman was present. No one ever seemed to see her come in, as if she hadn’t actually entered the room and was instead simply of it.
The doctor and the nurse—and the other doctors and nurses—would only note her presence when they stopped and tried to see her, like she was more than a person you could casually lay eyes on and closer to a state of being.
She must have had children, but children from long ago. People who were out there, somewhere, forms of radiating energy, like the woman herself. It was hard to envision her answering the phone or taking advantage of a sale—any of the small tasks of life—but it felt impossible to believe she hadn’t protected people who required her love.
They regarded her as the giver of care. Why else would she be there? It must have been in case someone needed her. A late night service that was also off the clock.
Those words weren’t spoken, but they’d think them in a part of their minds that noticed what was happening, and then unnoticed it, as if they weren’t meant to own that special knowledge but rather have it pass through them and leave something behind.
*From "The Giver of Care"/The Solution to the World's Problems: Surprising Tales of Relentless Joy