Walking Past the Man, the Woman, and the Medic
At Millennium Station, the Metra train platforms are below ground. On arriving, there’s a very long ramp that you walk up to get to the main waiting area.
This morning, I happened to be one of the first people off my train. And I also happened to be the first person to get to the very top of the ramp. There… I saw a man on a gurney, surrounded by four or five medics. One medic was pumping the man’s chest.
The man on the gurney was flat on his back, and his shirt had come untucked – exposing his pale stomach.
Another medic had stepped back from the scene, blue latex gloves on his hands. His arms were raised in the air somewhat, as though he was trying to avoid touching something. He was wiping his brow with his forearm. I assume he had been previously trying to resuscitate the man on the gurney, and moved aside to let another take over.
I tried not to stare, but as I was walking by I saw what I assumed was his wife sitting at a bench, nearby.
It was a jarring scene. It sounds odd but at that instant I wanted to take a photograph. Not to delight in the suffering of the man or the woman, but because I wanted to capture how tenuous all of life felt, in that moment.
As I moved through this area, I saw the faces of the people who were sitting at other benches. People who had been here before me, and continued to watch. I looked around and saw the faces of other commuters, many of them slowly realizing what was taking place in a distant corner of that room.
Walking a few steps past the scene, I moved through the doors that led to the waiting area. A few steps more and I began to merge with the slowly growing stream of commuters – people who had taken different trains on different lines, walking different paths. And who perhaps had not seen the man on the gurney, or the woman on the bench.
Walking a few more steps and the train station disappeared behind me. Down a corridor, up a flight of stairs… and I was above ground, walking down the sidewalk like I do every morning. Just like any other morning.
I am fortunate in that I’ve not been to very many funerals. I’ve not lost that many people close to me. Though, I suppose, that over time that number will grow for me – as it will grow for everyone.
I’ve found that during funerals, all the non-essentials get stripped away. I find myself thinking about family and friends, shared experiences. The big questions like – am I leading a good life? Am I helping others? Is the world a better place for me having been in it?
After funerals, those thoughts linger a while. And then gradually, ever so slowly, the small things creep back in. Bills. Grocery shopping. That jerk that cuts you off in traffic. Until eventually you forget about those big questions again.
I guess seeing that man this morning was another reminder. Those big questions never really go away. They’re always there. I just wasn’t thinking about them.
Throughout the day today, I’ve been thinking a lot about this morning. About the man, the woman, and the medic.
Hug your family and loved ones a little tighter today.