Kay stood beside me. I recognised the man on the opposite side of the bed as our family doctor. I looked over my body and things slowly came back. An accident. I had trouble piecing the puzzle together. I am not sure if my calm was drug-induced or if I was in shock, but I did not feel anxious or scared. Both my legs were raised in plaster; my left hand was in an awkward position, held out to the side, and my face felt like it had material all over it, which turned out to be scabs. Several drips above the bed flowed into a needle in my arm.
How quickly life can change, how fragile it is, how fleeting. What seemed like a few moments were a few days, and what seemed like an eternity were fleeting moments. I was but a tiny cork floating in a tempestuous sea. As I slipped between a wakeful life of drugs, drips and ablutions, a world of unreal images and a detachment that seemed to beckon to my spirit to give in, I met my Soul for the first time.
In all space and time the place we exist in is not material. I found myself floating in a vacuum. I was naked and detached, an onlooker watching the proceedings. I was not afraid; rather this all seemed strangely familiar. I was aware of other bodies around me. We were all suspended, as if in fluid, we were all naked and waiting for some decision.
I became aware of beings around me, and understood they were discussing me. All of this was familiar and neither intimidating nor foreign. I felt that I had been here before.
A clear question was put to me.” What do you want to do?” A choice. My choice. I would not be judged for my answer. I was aware of a feeling of great love and compassion. Support. “What do you want to do?” My answer was clear. “I will return to my home. I have many experiences that I still want to go through, but most importantly I must go to my physical place in the universe to make a contribution.”
“Go then, and make your contribution.”
I was gasping for air. Panic all around me, people scooting around, concerned.” Make your contribution.” I felt familiar warmth in my bed and it was not pleasant, I had peed. As I lay there staring at the ceiling I knew I was back. “He may walk again if he is lucky, but he will never run. Best you buy him a bike or maybe a canoe, or even encourage him to swim, but his running days are over. I am sorry.” Brian Noll was a great orthopaedic surgeon, one of the best in the country. But he did not understand me. From that day I found a defiance that sometimes scares me.
“Tom you are really, really stubborn,” a physiotherapist once told me. “Dennis, I am single-minded, there is a difference, you know.”
Time is a great healer. It was more than my body that needed to bask in its warm passage and passing. It was my mind and my Soul that needed this precious time too. I did eventually heal and I found my strength. Before long I was even thinking of going for a run. But that would be a long way off. I still had a few operations to go under Noll’s knife and I had to lose the crutches. But I craved the sweat of a hard workout. How important are our simple pleasures.
It took me a full year to find the courage to find out about Risto’s remains. I was in denial and this step was very painful for me. He had been cremated and his ashes placed in a memorial wall in the Braamfontein Cemetery. I went to find his memorial plaque. After some searching, it was there, in solid granite:
“Silvennoinen Risto Olavi”
06.09.56 – 25.12.89
Dearly loved and sadly missed. Rest in peace.
And then in Finnish– Muistoa Kunnioittaen Omaiset
Risto’s mother once drew me aside and promised to one day translate, but I am not sure it will ever happen. For me, certain things are best left alone; the meaning may be revealed in another lifetime. The plane trees are huge and tranquil. Cemeteries seem to have a timeless, spiritual quality that slows us all down to remember and reflect. I read the plaque for the tenth time, buried my face in my hands, and for the first time in a long time, I began to sob.
I wonder if Risto will ever forgive me?