He hadn’t even noticed. The cold, blank, sterile walls of room two-thirteen, half way down the long cavernous hall on the intensive care floor at Mercy General Hospital left no impression in his mind; nothing at all, positive or negative. It all just didn’t register.
And even during the previous ten days, his entire mind and body focused only on one purpose; getting to room two-thirteen on the sixth floor as quickly as possible. He had to be there. It was time. God had finally answered their prayers and now was not the time to rest his mind.
No, there was nothing about room two-thirteen that could fracture his attention. The constant noise of the medical equipment that kept her alive wasn’t going to break his concentration. The voices in the hall were not there. The squeaky wheels of the dinner cart didn’t affect him. During these precious hours, Jonathon Wise gripped each and every valued second. It was theirs as promised; theirs to possess and savor. And he was going to protect these moments with every ounce of his being. Their life long journey had been almost entirely blessed with the flood of magnificence and glory, but at the same time they were consumed with a deep and painful longing.
For hours, his aged, weathered hands gently cradled her precious hand. Her delicate fingers had always seemed to fit perfectly inside his. Rachel Harris had beautiful hands. He recalled that sometimes when the longing became too unbearable, he would imagine the angels in heaven being slightly jealous at their beauty. That thought always made him smile. And yet, after so many long years apart and now facing these final hours, there was no evidence of sadness in his eyes. His life and hers would now all come down together inside room two-thirteen and their longing was coming to an end.
No, the hospital walls never crossed his mind. Its not that he didn’t see them, he did, but his eyes saw more that most people could see. Jonathon Wise had been blessed with the eyes of an artist and the skilled hands of a surgeon. His artistic work hung in some of the finest homes around the world. His attention to detail and interpretation would soon be studied by scholars and admired by others long after he was gone. But that blessing could also become his curse. Others could look at a simple tree and admire its beauty. But Jonathon could see beyond its bark and branches, and deeply feel its history. He could picture the woman sitting under its branches madly weeping at the loss of her child, and he saw every tear that was shed from the secret heartbroken lovers attempting to make their final break from each other while taking refuge in the shade of those same branches.
But with all he saw, the true darkness of life would always envelope him. That’s where God had put his medical skills to use. Dr. Jonathon Wise spent his skill and talent in the poverty stricken villages of South America healing and ministering to the broken and forgotten. He dedicated the life and the gifts he was given to heal the bodies and souls of others.
But that was then and this was now. His focus was on the beautiful woman lying silently still in the hospital bed. There was no more darkness. He marveled at how the age never robbed her of the true beauty that he had come to love. For forty-eight years he never saw darkness in her. Just the thought of her brightness brought him an incredible warmth and life.
The door to room two-thirteen opened but Jonathon’s eyes never left Rachel. He saw the young nurse enter his line of vision and start scratching notes on her clipboard. He watched as she placed the stethoscope in her ears, then reach down to draw the blanket away and open Rachel’s gown. Jonathon looked up at her hospital identification and wondered how long Nurse Ann would stay in the room. She listened intently to the faint beating of Rachel’s heart, but he knew she would never know what was really inside. As Nurse Ann slowly removed the stethoscope, Jonathon reached across and pulled the blanket back up across her chest.
“She’s quite cold,” he said quietly.
“Are you her husband?” she asked.
“No,” he said without looking up. “I never had the honor.” At that moment he was too consumed with making sure Rachel was covered and comfortable to respond any further. That was his priority now.
“Are you a friend?”
Jonathon grinned. “I guess you’d have to ask her.” He didn’t expect an answer or response from the young nurse. She would never have understood.
But he was surprised at how young Nurse Ann appeared. He always marveled at young people. They never thought about their own mortality until it was too late. They were far too busy trying to achieve and gather all the things they valued as symbols of success. He knew it wasn’t until someone reached his age that they would start to realize and understand that they had been entirely consumed with living life that they never actually had the chance to enjoy it.
Nurse Ann scratched more notes on her clipboard and turned towards the door. Suddenly Jonathon felt Rachel’s finger move.
“Wait,” he said. “She moved. I felt it.”
Nurse Ann turned and moved back to the bed. She looked down at Rachel’s hand inside Jonathon’s. She didn’t dare disturb the touching picture she witnessed. Instead she reached down and checked Rachel’s pulse on her other wrist.
“It was probably just a twitch,” she said. “I’m sorry to say, I don’t think it will be much longer. There really isn’t much hope.” She looked down at the couple’s hands again and turned away.
As the door quietly closed behind her, he wondered if the young nurse really knew the true definition of the word she had just spoken. Hope. He had lived with it for most of his life. Rachel did as well. His heart, soul and mind had survived the full seventy-six years on that word. It was one of the things that kept him going through all those years of longing and loneliness. The other was faith; his faith and hers.
Jonathon contemplated both words at that moment; faith and hope. They were on his mind when he closed his eyes and prayed again. He squeezed his eye lids as tight as the old muscles would allow. A lone tear rolled down his cheek and disappeared deep inside one of the many wrinkles that had formed on his face. A smile formed along his weathered lips as he opened his eyes and looked again at Rachel. Faith and hope, he whispered. Faith and hope. His fingers gently tighten around her hand and he placed his head on the pillow beside her. With his free hand, he moved the lone strand of dark hair away from her precious cheek. As he had done so many times before, he marveled at the true beauty that age hadn’t touched. He smiled again and the words formed around his mouth.
“Faith and hope, my sweet. And remember my promise; someday, some where, some how.”