Just for a moment
An ancient story describes a traveler seeking a spiritual teacher. Entering a village, he inquires about the teacher’s whereabouts. A villager, pointing in the direction of a funeral, says “you will recognize him as the one wearing the multicolored turban.” Nearing the funeral, he notices everyone wearing a multicolored turban.
“How could this be?” he thinks to himself. As the funeral ends, the attendees walk away from the graveside, their turbans turning to plain black. The turban of only one man, the teacher, remains multicolored.
One day, after receiving an unexpected phone call, I rushed to Hennepin County Medical Center to visit a family member with a closed head injury, a result of a bicycle accident. I saw a surgical intenstive care unit filled with young people, victims of car, motorcycle, and construction accidents and gunshot wounds.
I imagined the moments immediately before these lives abruptly changed. “Honey, see you in a few hours, I’m going to the store.” Or, “I’m off to work, see you tonight, have a good day.”
I pondered the ancient story reflecting how, for just for a moment, the veil masking life’s fragility lifts. While attending a funeral or walking through a county hospital intensive care unit, we momentarily wear the multicolored turban before returning to our usual assumptions of invincibility.
I feel humbled and blessed working in healthcare. The work exposes us to more moments of seeing beyond the veil, enabling us to celebrate life’s preciousness. We participate with individuals and families as their lives change in an instant- “John, you have inoperable cancer; Mary, you are having a heart attack; Louis, your daughter just committed suicide; Margaret, you are having a stroke.”
My cousin is expected to recover completely. I am grateful. And I am thankful for what our work brings to patients as well as what it means for those of us working in healthcare.
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