One never plans for this sort of thing. Not really. Sitting in a hospital room on a Sunday morning, laptop balanced on my knees so that I can at least try to keep up with my work, a semblence of it, or perhaps more to momentarily lose myself in it, I ponder the Advance Directive the nurse has placed on the bed. Even a few short months ago, I probably would not have known what an Advance Directive means. But now that I work in health care myself, I know.
Listening to the now steady breathing of an ill parent on oxygen, I know. Glancing from moment to moment at the tense and watchful expression on the face of the other parent, on the other side of the hospital bed, I know. Concluding with a soft amen a prayer with the Latvian minister, dropped by with a burgundy-colored African violet, not unlike the shade of the Latvian flag, and now holding our hands joined in a circle around the bed, I know. Advance Directives are meant to direct families in advance of a health crisis. So that family members know. At what point do we let go?
Letting go has never been one of my strengths, and yet, even a short while ago, when at last I was able to let go of an incessantly and hopelesssly troubled relationship (someone wise said to me, "there are those hearts that are simply incapable of love," and a final puzzle piece fell into place), I grasped the concept. Let go. Once done, once I opened my clenched hand and let a tired dream, continually debased, fly away, it amazed me how easy it was to breathe again. As if I, too, had regained some inner ability to fly.
Now, this cherished life. Let go? Not a chance. It is not time. I am here to fight, to champion the process, step by step, of regaining health and well-being.
But an Advance Directive is a sound concept. It speaks for us if we should ever fall into such crisis that we can no longer speak for ourselves. It is a "living will" that directs our loved ones how long, and in what manner, we choose to fight for our own lives. Life is much, much more than the beating and pulsing and blood-pumping muscle of the heart—this organ so shaped like a clenched fist. It is, in fact, all about the capability to love. That moment of unclenching the fist to become an open hand. To put the welfare of another above and beyond our own. To rise above the baseness of life, as a machine that merely sleeps, eats, copulates, labors to maintain life, and sleeps again, to become the full and rich life of a human being. A being who strives to touch the lives of other human beings with love and care and nurturing.
Life is about who is sitting next to your hospital bed when you yourself have grown weary of it. Life is about the circle of hands joined in blessing above you, amen. Life is about fully realizing and appreciating this moment, in advance, and directing one's life path to lead toward it, leaving a trail of other lives made better by yours along the way.