The Living of a Lifeby Author / K. J. Tesar
The Living of a Life
4 Short Stories
K. J. Tesar
Copyright 2017 K. J. Tesar
To my dear friend
Thanks for the encouragement,
and gentle nudge
in the right direction.
Table of Contents
4 Short Stories:
This State of Being
An Instinctive Affair
The Suffering of Life
The Living of a Life
When Evil Descends
A Life Fades
A Journey Home
This State of Being
There is nothing I love more than staring out of my window, and watching the changing effects of the seasons, on the beautiful garden below. Without a doubt, it is one of the most precious pleasures life has gifted me. I have positioned my work station right in front of a large window, here on the second floor, and the view is nothing short of fantastic. Every time I look out, I see something incredibly breathtaking. In the foreground, there are pathways weaving through the well manicured gardens, and across the back is a line of tall trees, ringing the entire garden area. Behind those trees, putting them almost in a picture frame, are Auckland's Waitakere Ranges. The overall picture is one of sheer beauty. A beauty my eyes never tire from. On the one hand, it could almost be called a distraction, to be constantly looking up from my work, and watching the garden below. Really though, it is the peace, and serenity, that the view gives me, that enables me to work so well. I find that when I am relaxed, I do my best work. The garden breathes life into me, and through me, into my work. The choice to work from home was such a life changer. Since my accident, I have made a lot of changes in my life. My new life barely even resembles that of my old one. When we travel through our lives, not aware of what the gift of life really means, it is so easy to get sidetracked by feeling the need, the pressure, to have all the latest gadgets, all the best clothes, and a home worthy of the best of afternoon television. All our decisions are influenced by what others think is best for us. The actual living of that life, gets lost somewhere. In our constant chase for all the things we are led to believe that we need, we forget about what would actually be good for us. The things in life, quite often free, which are the things that make life worth living. The essence of life itself. Far be it for me to judge. I myself was one of the worst, at not recognising these things. I was a go-getter from the start. I studied hard, and then, when I entered the workforce, I worked hard, climbing up the corporate ladder. I judged my progress by the amount of money I earned, by the quality of the goods I owned, but never even considered if any of it made me happy. I suppose it had been a result of the competitive nature of the school, and university, I had attended. At no time, in my learning years, did any teacher ever broach the subject of living a life you enjoyed. It was all focused on success. I suppose, in an abstract sort of way, it was just assumed that, with success, happiness would follow. I, myself, never even considered it. I was driven, along with my contemporaries, to attain the maximum. We all studied hard, worked hard, and tried for the best results possible. Sometimes I think back on those years, and wonder if people actually liked me. Through it all, was I a nice person? Were we even friends? Quite probably, I was so focused on succeeding, that little details, like friendship, were put aside. They were people to compete with, people to try and beat, by attaining better results. How could that be the basis of friendship? In my drive for results, things like friendship, and nature's beauty, were never considered. Life had been all around me, but I hadn't noticed it. I had been so distracted by the living of my life, that I never really noticed life, itself. The beauty of life, the beauty of people, were things that I had never dwelt on. I feel a sadness when I think of that, of all those wasted years. Being constantly encircled by the beauty of life, and the beauty of people, but without even being aware of it's presence. Strangely, it took a bad accident to open my eyes to what had always been there, but which, I had never seen.
'It's such a lovely place here, Kevin. It's so peaceful.'
My mother's face always lit up when she looked over the garden below. Like me, now, she appreciated it's great serenity.
'Thanks, mum, I like it too. I've designed my work station around the fantastic view from the window. To be honest, it can be a bit distracting, but actually, it gives me the energy to get through all my projects.'
'I always look forward to coming here to see you, so much.'
I looked at my mother's face. For her age, approaching 60, she was still very beautiful, although she had a strange look of sadness. Dad's death, years ago, had hit her hard, and now with my accident on top of that, she seemed to have become permanently sad. I really worried about her. She had life's usual worry lines across her brow. No doubt they had increased drastically through the period of my accident, and rehabilitation.
'Mother, your visits always bring me a lot of pleasure.'
Really, mother's visits distracted me, a lot, from my work. However, the new person that I had become, didn't place work above all else. Now, finally, I valued life itself. People, the view from my window, and the actual living of life, were the things that I now valued, above all else. My mother was the most important person in my new life, especially after all she had done for me after my accident. I would never begrudge her any time she wanted.
'It wrenches out my heart, when I think of the accident you had. I was sure I had lost you, forever.'
Mum looked to be on the verge of crying, something she did a lot lately.
'Come on, mum, enough of that. Don't think about that anymore. Here we are, in a lovely place, together. What more could we ask for? Listen, if Mrs. Drummond is still around, I will get her to make us a cup of tea. Hopefully there will be some biscuits around, as well. What do you say?'
Mrs. Drummond came in a few hours a day, to do my cleaning, and prepare my meals for me. She was such a marvelous help, I don't know what I would do without her. Luckily, she was still on hand, and made us a cup of tea. I watched my mother as she drank her tea, and delicately chewed on a biscuit. I was so incredibly lucky, to have her in my life. The old me, the corporate, results driven me, had really taken her for granted. We had never spoken about life, or gardens, things of that nature. Sure, I had kept her up to date with all my results, my promotions, and the money I was earning. I doubt that we had ever had a real conversation, about life, the beauty of life, or how to really live life, and appreciate the little things, like sitting here, and having a cup of tea together.
'In some ways, I'm glad your father wasn't still alive, when you had your accident. He just doted on you. Of course, he also loved your sister, don't get me wrong, but he really loved seeing how you excelled at everything. It would have just destroyed him.'
The sadness just seemed to consume her.
'Oh, come on, mum. You can't keep dwelling on the accident. If anything, I am happier now. Out of it all, I have discovered the true meaning of life. Instead of just appreciating money, position, and things like that, I now appreciate the little things in life. I feel that I am finally living the life I was meant to live.'
Of course, I could understand her. She had lived through what is probably the most traumatic event a mother could ever experience. In fact, she, no doubt, had experienced it more than me. Initially, I had been in a coma for a few days, barely clinging to life. Obviously, that had left a deep scar on her, and she had a difficult time forgetting it. I knew that I had to have a lot of patience with her, and give her all the support that I could. If anyone deserved that, it was mum. After all she had been through, that was the least I could do.
I don't remember the actual details of my accident, but, without a doubt, the wet, slippery road, and the dark of night, had all contributed to it. I don't remember anything until waking up in hospital, a few days later. Apparently, I had been trapped in the car for hours, and had to be cut free, with the so-called jaws of life. What followed for me, was months of hospital, and rehabilitation. All the drama that you could expect in a situation like that. My mother, my dearest mother, the woman who I have really only come to know so well since my accident, never left my side. Through all those months of hospital, she was my rock. It was only through her dedication, and constant love, that I managed to come through it all. Of that, I am sure. Even when I was still too damaged to talk, she would tell me all about what was going on, and what everyone was up to. When she held my hand in hers, I felt so connected to love, to life. Her voice was so soothing, and so peaceful. She always had a calming effect on me, and I knew that with her help, I could get through anything. She was my guardian angel, my pillar of strength. It was in those months, with the example of my mother's love, that I decided that my life needed to change, completely. I was never going back to living just as an automaton, living a life dictated by society. I wanted to live a real life. Listening to my mother describing simple things, such as how the sky looked, on a particular day, or how well the flowers were growing in her garden, woke up my urge to finally experience life itself. It was time for me to start my life, anew.
'Here's your lunch, now, Kevin. Come on, let's get you away from that window and get some food into you.'
I smiled, in reply. She was right, of course. Instead of working I had been gazing out of my window. Mrs. Drummond is such a help. She really fusses over me, and worries about whether I am eating enough. It is very sweet, really. Most people, in the modern age, don't care about others. It was so refreshing to have found someone with such old-school principles. She cleared away a spot on my work table, and placed my lunch there. To be honest, I hadn't really been able to get much work done that morning. Autumn had arrived in Auckland, and the colours in the garden below were just breathtaking. The new me, the person that I had become, now appreciated the power, and the beauty, of nature. I had spent most of the morning reflecting on the changes of the seasons. It was nature's way of renewing life. Without those changes, new growth couldn't come in the spring. It had occurred to me, that that is also true of the changes people need to go through. If we never change, we will never experience new things. If we are stuck in our ways, either out of convenience, or, perhaps habit, we will never experience different aspects of life. Our eyes will never be opened to new perspectives, new ways of looking at the same things. If you don't change the position you view things from, they will always appear the same. Everybody understands what it means for the seasons to change, but how many of us actually experience that change? Knowledge seems to be all about memorising things, rather than seeing them, or feeling them. We talk about things, without understanding their impact. We don't grasp the power of the things we talk about, because we don't actually live them. We tend to glide through life, and we forget to take notice of the really important things, things that don't enrich us economically, but which can enrich our souls. The things in life that can make our lives better, because, by experiencing them, we become better people.
Dr. McGuire looked up and saw Kevin's mother standing in the doorway of his office.
'Hello, Mrs. Wilson, what can I do for you?'
'Good morning doctor. If you don't mind, I was wondering if we could have a chat about Kevin's progress.'
'Certainly! Have a seat, please. From a medical point of view, nothing has really changed. I know our medical terminology can be difficult to understand, but, in Kevin's situation, as a result of the head trauma he suffered in his accident, we would say he is in a catatonic state, with minimal brain activity. That would...'
'Yes, thank you, I understand that. What I really wanted to know is, if he can hear me when I speak to him. Can he understand me?'
'From a purely medical point of view, that is extremely difficult to know. It differs from one case to another, but we really have no way of evaluating just how much a patient, in his condition, can comprehend. Listen, let me call in nurse Drummond, she has the most contact with Kevin. I'm sure she will be able to answer your questions, on a human level, better than me.'
Dr. McGuire picked up the phone, and spoke with his secretary. After a short wait, nurse Drummond entered his office.
'Oh, hello there, Mrs. Wilson. I saw you visiting Kevin earlier. I'm sorry I didn't have time to get you a cup of tea today. It's been flat stick. Just one of those days!'
'Listen, Alice, Mrs. Wilson has some questions about Kevin's ability to comprehend his surroundings. Not from a medical point of view, but more from a mother's point of view. Do you have some time to have a talk with her?'
'Most certainly! Come on, let's head down to the cafeteria. We can have a cup of tea, and a bit of a chat.'
Mrs. Wilson followed nurse Drummond to the hospital's cafeteria. The two of them, after buying their teas, took a table by the window. The cafeteria was on the first floor of the institution, overlooking the garden. Mrs. Wilson looked at nurse Drummond anxiously.
'Do you think it helps, when I talk to Kevin? Do you think he can understand me? Does he even know it's me? Oh, sorry, I shouldn't bombard you with my questions. Anyway, I'm sure you know what I mean.'
'Yes, of course. It's more guesswork, than science, to know just how much patients, in Kevin's state, can understand. The fact that he seems so much more tranquil, when he is in front of his window, makes me believe that he does have some awareness of his surroundings. Other patients don't change at all, no matter where they are placed. However Kevin, when he is seated in front of his window overlooking the garden, is definitely much more relaxed. I believe, in myself, that he is aware, to a certain extent, of things around him.'
Mrs. Wilson felt great relief. She hated to think that Kevin was totally absent. Her constant sadness abated slightly.
'What about when I talk to him? Do you think he understands what I am saying?'
'Many studies have shown that talking to patients in a catatonic state is helpful. Moreover, in Kevin's state, being aware, as I am sure he is, of his surroundings, I believe it would be very helpful for him. Just chat away, tell him all the family news.'
'Do you think he knows that I am his mother?'
Nurse Drummond took Mrs. Wilson's hand in hers, and looked kindly, in her eyes.
'You just have to believe, that that is the case. The only proof you will find of that, is in your heart.'
Kevin's mother had tears streaming down her cheeks. Tears of a sad elation. She half wiped them away, and smiled at the nurse.
' I think he does! In fact, I'm sure of it! Oh, thank you! Thank you so much. I'm so happy to have Kevin here, where you look after him so well.'
'I'm sorry, Mrs. Wilson, but I really must be getting on now.'
'Of course. Goodbye, and thank you.'
As nurse Drummond left, Mrs. Wilson looked out on the garden, Kevin's garden, and cried quietly to herself. It was so hard seeing Kevin in that state. He had been so full of life, so full of promise. He had achieved so much. To have that all taken away from him was devastating. She finished her tea, and headed out towards the carpark. She always took the long way to the carpark, passing along one of the pathways through the garden. As usual, she stopped to look up at Kevin's room. There he was, sitting impassively, and immobile, at his window. Expectantly, she waved up at him, but, as ever, he didn't move. Putting her handkerchief to her eyes, to dry the last of her tears, she headed to the carpark. She took a last look at the beautiful garden. This peaceful place, that brought her such sadness. A place of great beauty, that always wrenched out her heart.
Mother visited again today. It's always such a great pleasure for me when she drops by. Since my accident, we have really become so close. I am more than happy to set aside my projects, and devote my time to her. My work now, is no more than a means to an end. The old me was tied down, by my mindset, to a lifestyle which can only be described as being totally self indulgent. Now, I spend more time pondering life, and people. It is really the people in our lives, that bring us the happiness we desire, the joy our hearts yearn for. We will only find fulfillment through our relationships with those closest to us. Sometimes the most important things in our lives are right there, but we don't see them. Now, after having made it through such a life changing event, my eyes have been opened. I have finally understood what life is really about. Life is about people. Life is about appreciating nature's beauty. I am thankful for having had my accident. I know that seems like a strange thing to say, but my real life has only just begun, since my accident. It took the effects of such a traumatic event, to wake me from my self-serving stupor. I now feel like I am experiencing life, for the first time. Out of my window I see my mother, the love of my life, walking along the pathway, through the garden. With a surge of joy that passes through me, I smile, and wave to her. She looks up, radiant and happy, and waves back. I am so blessed in my life. I now have everything that I could ever have asked for. Life has been incredibly generous to me.
An Instinctive Affair