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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Purposefulness (Purpose in Life) (05/25/06)

TITLE: What’s Left at Life’s End
By Lisa Anderson


The window was getting dirty, making it hard for Elaine to see the garden from her bed. She clicked the call button for assistance, but no one came. She would clean it herself, but her old frail body imprisoned her in the hospital bed. Click. Click. It was such a beautiful day, and Elaine wanted to see the garden. Click.

An orderly appeared in the doorway, “Perhaps people would be more willing to answer your call if you didn’t press it 30 times a day.” The orderly was a gruff woman, bringing with her a cold presence through the nursing home.

“I can’t see the garden!” Elaine said in her demanding voice.

“Someone will get to it when they can, but right now we have more important matters needing attention.”

“I need to see the garden!”

“You will just have to wait,” said the orderly as if she were talking to a child. She turned quickly and left the room.

Elaine reached over to the nightstand and grabbed the daily paper. A headline read, “10,000 Missing after Earthquake.” Her lips mumbled the words aloud as she skimmed the headlines. A photo inside caught her attention, “Good composition, descent lighting …” Her voice trailed off.

She looked forward to reading the paper everyday, recalling the days when her photos headlined in papers across the country. Now she was trapped in her loneliness as she stared at the courtyard garden outside her window, reminiscing of a life that has come to an end.

Click. Click.
Click. Click. Click.

The door gave a breeze as the orderly appeared. Angrily she stated, “You aren’t going to get that window cleaned if you keep us from finishing our work.”

“No, that’s alright,” Elaine said calmly, as if she wanted something else. “You take your time, but could you hand me the red box in the closet while I wait?”

Without saying a word, the orderly handed her the box and left the room.

Elaine opened the box and started paging through her old albums filled with photos and newspaper clippings, recalling the days when life was an adventure. Many considered her a pioneer, as she was one of the first women to join the Navy before the war. She served as a Photographer’s Mate in the WAVES during WWII, traveling the world and winning several awards in photojournalism. During the Korean Conflict she traveled to Korea as a photojournalist with the Red Cross. She also covered natural disasters across the world, reporting for nationally known publications.

Her photography career and world adventures kept her too busy to start a family. Now she was alone, unable to get out of bed. The only company she received was that of Rosa, another resident of the home who suffered from Alzheimer’s and often wondered in looking for her dead husband. Her accomplishments meant so much to her when she was making her “mark” on the world, but now she was alone, just waiting around to die.

What purpose is there in life now? Had she known how lonely old age would be, she would have done more to keep herself from living this long. If only she could find a purpose in living? To experience the feeling of accomplishment again, that was all she needed.

As she was reading the orderly came back in the room to give her medicine.

“I used to make the news, you know,” Elaine proclaimed proudly. “I was an important world photographer.”

The orderly was not amused, “Really,” she said flatly.

“I used to pray that my pictures would make Americans grateful for this great country in which we live.”

“That’s nice.”

“If only I still had the power to affect the world.” Elaine’s face sobered as she blankly flipped the page. Sadly she said, “Not much I can do while confined to my bed. Only thing left in life is to pray to die.”

The orderly scolded, “Maybe your prayers would be better spent praying for those you are reading about.”

Elaine paused. Now there was something she could do from her bed. Softly she said to herself, “I could pray.” She didn’t even notice the smile creeping on her face. “Maybe there still is purpose in life. Prayer can be my power to affect the world.”

Looking at the paper in front of her, she began, “Page one: Lord, please help those still trapped in the Earthquake and help …” and on she went.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Virginia Gorg06/01/06
An orderly's "scolding" brought forth her purpose. Well written - held my attention throughout. :)
Valerie Routhieaux06/02/06
Well done. You show that there is purpose even when it doesn't look like it. Thank you.
Sherry Wendling06/02/06
Good work! I liked your imagery with "her old frail body imprisoned her in the hospital bed." Where did you find your main character? Amazing lady; I love her! Very satisfying ending, too.

Say, would you PM me about this article? Be sure to include the title when you do. Thanks!