The smells of a hospital: disinfectant soap, plastic, rubbing alcohol. The sounds of a hospital: beeps, shoes on a polished floor, soft-rock playing over the intercom, a calm, monotone voice announcing "code blue". The sights of a hospital: a plastic plant, a window framing a dark parking-lot, lightly padded chairs, a small, shrouded form on a hospital bed.
A young man sits in the waiting lounge; a silent man, a broken man. He has not been there long, an hour or two perhaps. He waits for the paperwork to be completed. An old man enters the lounge and sits beside him.
"I'm sorry, brother." His hand reaches out to rest on the stooped shoulders, but the hand falls short and grips the wooden armrest instead.
"Thank you." He has not been crying; he is a broken man but his voice continues. It is an empty voice, a godless voice. "You didn't have to come."
"Have you been in the room?"
There is silence for a time. The old man looks at the young man, his face full of memories but his voice silent.
"Has the doctor come out yet?"
A rumbling as a plastic bin stacked with trash is pushed by in the hall.
The old man's voice is quiet now and strained. "How does he look?"
"They cleaned him and took out the lines. They dressed him." The reply is a void; it is only sound between these four tight walls.
The old man weeps, but the young man does not see. At last the old, scarred hand rests on the young man's shoulder. The young man leans further forward as though the weight of the hand is added to a weight already borne.
Nothing more is said for a time. What is said when a man has lost a son? What encouragement is there for one already broken? What salve is there for a heart that bleeds?
The old man begins to speak; but though he tries to steady his voice, it breaks. He swallows several times and wipes his eyes on his sleeve before trying again. He looks up as he does, for he speaks to God, not to man.
"How you must have loved your Son!"
The words end and the room is quiet, but for the old man's weeping. The young man slowly collapses, wrapping his head in his arms on his knees. His knuckles clinch until they are white and his breaths are deep and rapid.
"When they took him off the ventilator he kept breathing for a few minutes. He seemed to wake up a little. He didn't look at me, but he called me 'Dad'. He said, 'Tell Mom that I'll draw her a picture when I get home.' He went to sleep like he used to at home. He was holding his stuffed rabbit."
A tear drops to the carpet between the young man's feet and leaves a small dark spot.
"God!" Like a gunshot the word shoots through the hospital, ricocheting off the white corridors and thick metal doors. There is silence afterward, but it is a silence of whole-hearted grieving; it is a godly silence.
At the end of the hall there is a window. Outside, the sun rises in splendor and the clouds roll and shift through unending meaningless shapes - yet, truly meaningless? Now I see a horse's shape with flowing mane, legs raises in mid-gallop across the glorious sky. I see boots with spurs ready to chink against stirrups, bridle clinched in hand, and a child's head tossed back in laughter, hair whipping in the winds of heaven.
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