At the end of this year’s clinical rotations as a medical student, I realise that as future physicians we will soon be moving around hospital corridors, checking up on our patients; their records maintained meticulously by the hospital paramedics. How many of us will look beyond terms inscribed on boards like the one in the picture – ‘Bed No.’, ‘Patient’s Name’, ‘Consultant’s Name’, ‘Ref #’, ‘Company / Private’, ‘Age’, ‘Diet’, etc, etc – and think of the stories that each one of these people walked into our clinics with? How many of us will be healers and not just mere physicians?
So many of us want to see things. We want to see the future, we want to see how the universe ends, we want to glimpse the edges of time and space. So many of us want to see all of that and still be able to have coffee at home in the morning. So many of us want to live a thousand, thousand lives. And still be able to have a cup of coffee in the morning.
And as doctors, witnessing the end of a universe will be an everyday day occurrence for us. You know how?
When you will tell a bereaved son that the father who sold his ancestral home to get him through college, is dying, you will see the end of a universe.
When you will tell a devoted husband that he just lost the love of his life, you will see the end of a universe.
When you will see a pair of young parents cradling a small coffin, you will see the end of a universe.
When you will see a loyal friend cry as he sees his friend lose the battle of life, you will be seeing the end of a universe.
Those are all tragic ends to what was a universe of its own, because, after all, as Rumi said, “We are the universe in ecstatic motion”, and as Sagan reminds us, we’re “made of star stuff”, aren’t we?
You’ll witness the end of those universes, and you’ll still be able to have coffee in the morning, in your own universe.
These people around us, struggling to make ends meet. The lonely kid at the school cafeteria wanting to share his mom’s sandwiches. The tired girl treasuring the silence of the night. The sick, old mother waiting for her son. These are all the salt and pepper, an entire cosmos of hidden emotions and beating hearts. And watching these universes disperse with a light that almost blinds your heart, is what makes Time so cruel, doesn’t it? It’s what I call the ‘Twenty-fifth Hour’ – that very intangible moment in the vastness of Time that will not be sorry for its existence as it will alter your perception of life, and love, and loss.
Smiling on the wall sits the ancient clock,
Chiming away – tick, tock, tick, tock –
The day attends to your curiosity
And the night courts your dreams
And between the hours on the clock
walk our insensibilities.
The Hand of the Seconds laughs at you,
And my mind spins a tale that is beyond
The imagination of the elves
And my heart beckons to the minutes
To explain the happening miracle,
And as we slide away on the island of existence,
Our gaze looks afar, into the infinite,
Towards the twenty-fifth hour.