Nursing HomeEast of Tucson, Arizona is a retirement and short-term rehabilitation center.  There in room 205, lay father. Ten days ago a perfectly healthy man entered the hospital to have knee replacement.  Ten days later, a man was moved to this short term rehabilitation center have having stopped breathing, a heart attached and severe reaction to OxyContin, as prescribed by the physician.

The rehab center has four main wings. There’s long-term assisted living, a retirement wing, short-term rehabilitation and the disposable. The disposable wing is home to those solitary folks too sick and frail to leave.  On one hand, they have no family, no friends or soul mates. On the other, they await the angel of death. In strange way, they are comrades who abide by regularly scheduled activities and watch people go to and fro, surfing soap operas or sports while awaiting the angel of death.

By its very nature, most shy away, with many rarely venture this wing. There’s good reason: it’s the land God forgot. On face value it’s dreary. Patients come in to this area extremely ill, with such problems as sepsis, pneumonia, cancer and pancreatitis, etc. Only the early morning sunlight creaks the slightly drawn shades. Wheelchairs line the doorways and the air is perfumed with something dissimilar to urine or stool, permeating heavily.

After settling my father in, I ventured into no man’s land.  And by having the courage, I was afforded a wonderful opportunity to revisit history and lives of others.

Twenty steps in, I met Elias, a wonderfully entertaining elderly man who worked much of his life in now defunct Arizona copper mines. After leaving the mines, Elias started a landscaping venture with his “fat overweight son.” Remaining hearty at 62, he reached down to pick up a fifty-pound bag of dirt and snapped his back. Several weeks later, he has two steel rods running parallel to his spine, with steel screws every four inches. Long abandoned by his son, his only visitors are a church pastor and nurses.

After listening Elias, Sammy interrupted with her life. Sammy to friends and Samantha to family was a former dancer, who beautifully danced moved to choirs, orchestras and modern dance. In truth, Sammy was a former exotic dancer who self admittedly said “gravity’s won” but reinvested the cash she made and lives quite comfortably sipping tea as she pleases. She was clear to note that her youthful spirit of life remained alive, even at age 68. In fact ten years ago, Sammy was dancing in her living room while dancing to Springsteen’s “Born to Run.” She performed the split but suffered damage so severe she had two hip replacements.

Aileen is the resident grey tabby cat. And according to 92 year-old socialite, Ms. Spenser, Aileen is a little tramp and much “the to do” has been made over her affair with “Buster Weeds,” that orange tabby living on the other side of the washout adjoining the property.

In my few hours, I Charlie, Sandy, Barbara, Jensen, James, Cindy, Ms. Stemson and Carl.  I learned a little of Tombstone, local history of the Apache, Bisbee, the ghosts of Bisbee, the Copper Queen Mine of Bisbee, the copper mines of Jerome, Buckskin Mountains of west-central Arizona, politics, football and baseball.

For a few hours, history came alive. Each rolled back time and history relived as fresh and beautiful.  Because many of us simply refuse to reach past our own fear, real history is missed and much of history is lost.

Kneeling in the chapel I thanked the world for the courage to reach beyond the fear…to  listen, to laugh and to love. Maybe, I just couldn’t bear to see anyone move to another world without love. I am grateful for this chance to experience the impermanence of life. I am grateful these lives will continue on in me.