Tom was a young man who loved life. He was a fitness enthusiast and wouldn’t miss an opportunity to take part in marathons and competitions in his town.
One day, while hiking with friends, Tom had a serious accident. He fell in a crevice and it took the paramedics and the firefighters 2 hours to get him out. He was unconscious of course but he was in a really terrible state. He was urgently flown to the hospital and taken into surgery immediately. It came out that his spine was broken at three different places and his neck was really injured. His leg was also broken but at this point this was the least of the doctors’ problems.
For the next weeks, Tom was placed in an induced coma while doctors performed surgery after surgery . His parents were distraught and were visiting him daily, so were his friends. He was unconscious and looked so frail in his hospital bed, surrounded by all the life support machines.
And so it went on for another four months, before the doctors decided that Tom could be moved out of the ICU section into a regular room. He was supervised 24/7. His pain were reduced by all sorts of pain killers and drips. He was haggard and whenever he was awake, he was in a terrible mood. He was going between depression and anger and his parents didn’t know what to do. Of course he was told that he will not walk again. His neck injury was healing but he needed a lot of therapy. His spine was so bad that even physiotherapy was not possible at that point in time.
On the day he was moved to a regular room, he was told that the Hospital was overly busy therefore he had to share a room with another elderly gentleman who was here for a broken hip.
Tom didn’t care less about whoever shared his room. He was bound to sleep flat on his stomach for the next few months. Therapists would be helping with daily exercise. He was feeding with a straw since he was not able to sit properly to eat. He felt helpless and at his lowest.
The next morning he woke up early and recognized the new room. He could not see beyond the floor around his bed. He knew that this would be his vista for a long while, until the doctors authorized that he can lie on his back again. “What’s the use of being alive, I rather be dead,” he mumbled with fear and anger.
He heard a voice next to him: “Don’t say that young chap, life is beautiful and is worth the living.”
“Is that God talking to me?”, thought Tom half surprised half startled.
“Who are you?” He asked.
“My name is Leon, came the voice. I am your roommate. I was here when they brought you in yesterday but you seemed to be tired, I didn’t want to disturb you. ”
“Oh hello”, said Tom making the effort of civility.
“I understand your fear and your pain. Your parents were here yesterday evening and they told me about the accident.” Leon’s voice was soft but deep and strong. It sounded like an echo.
“What’s to be joyful about? Answered Tom sarcastically. I am only 22 and I have nothing to look forward to.
“You are mistaken’, said Leon, ‘you are 22 and so you have everything to look forward to. A whole life, a future, happiness and discoveries.”
“You don’t seem to understand that I will not walk again”, Tom’s voice was sad and breaking.
Leon didn’t reply. He kept quiet, like pondering the words of the young man.
The day went by as slow as the previous one and probably a bit faster than the day to follow. Tom’s parents were still visiting daily but his friends were now visiting less. They were busy with work or college. Their weekends were full with outings and sports. Each time Tom thought about it, he would start crying silently. But Leon did hear. And that day, he took it on himself to entertain the young man with stories about his own youth. And each time, he would start with describing what was happening outside because his bed was the one next to the window.
“Today the sun is shining, the sky is so blue. You could see the smallest bird up there’, he told. ‘Oh and we have a park in front of the hospital, there is always this young woman who is holding an old lady and helping her to walk to the bench and sit. They sit for hours. They chat and laugh. You should see how pretty this young woman is. Like an angel, with her long golden hair and her beautiful smile.”
“Today there are kids playing ball in the garden, they are so happy, careless and free. Does it remind you of your own childhood?” He would ask Tom.
And Tom was taken back into his happy childhood, growing up in a lovely home. He remembered his summer holidays at his grandparents in the countryside and all these wonderful memories came back to flood him with peace.
“Oh what a nice day it is. It’s Sunday, the sound of church bells was filling up the room. There must be a boat race because I can see the haven full of small boats and yachts and so much people.”
“Is the sea visible from your window?” Asked Tom surprised.
“Yes it is there, I guess we are high enough to overlook the bay. And today with this clear sky, it is easy to see as far as the marina. Boats and people and yes I was right, the race has just started because the boats are now leaving the pier.”
And so on, everyday Leon would describe the scenery from the window and entertain Tom with stories from here and there. His positive views about nearly everything had Tom re-evaluate his life and what he wanted to achieve. Of course with his handicap there were challenges but he had the love of life now seeded in him.
“Is the young woman here today?” He would ask Leon on some mornings when Leon was busy describing something else.
“Not yet, but she will definitely show up soon. I guess she is a social helper who comes to the hospital to help with the elderly. Maybe I should ask for her to visit us,” said Leon with a smile.
“That would be nice,” and Tom found himself smiling at the thought.
Somehow Tom’s young body was healing faster than the doctors had predicted. It was as if life’s flow was inundating him in double doses. Leon’s stories and colourful description of the world, as well as his pep talks each time Tom was feeling down, had completely changed the young man’s mood and vision. He started making plans of when he would leave the hospital. He couldn’t wait to go back home, and be with his family. His dad was doing researches of what studies Tom could pursue, his mom was busy re-arranging the house to allow for his wheel chair to circulate. But somehow, deep inside, Tom felt that he wouldn’t even need that chair. His physiotherapists confirmed as they felt that his legs were responding to reflexes now. His neck was getting better and the team at the hospital were planning to move him on his back very soon.
He was so happy about the news. Leon was as happy. He kept telling him that the human body was such an incredible creation, able to handle itself in any stressful situation; he also repeated that with the right attitude we can heal ourselves from nearly anything.
Tom and Leon were now best friends and the whole floor was talking about this beautiful relation between patients. For Tom it was like discovering another grandfather, for Leon it was the grandson he never had.
But unfortunately, Leon’s health was deteriorating. His old age and the broken hip were too much to handle. And one night, as quietly as possible, Leon passed away. The nurse on the night shift informed the team and the old man was moved out without raising the alarm. Tom was told that Leon was not that well and needed to be moved to ICU.
The next day, Tom was worrying about his old friend and asked about him. The same answer was given. He thought to himself that if he could move at least he could visit his friend in the ICU, at least go show his face through the glass panes. He felt that he owed the old man all the positivity and love of life, and now it was his turn to send the lift back.
In the next few days he kept remembering Leon’s stories. His physiotherapists were elated with the incredible healing. They called it a miracle.
Then the day Tom was supposed to be moved on his back, the nurses and doctors gathered around his bed to shift him.
“Can I have the bed next to the window please? At least I can look outside. I would really like to be able to see the garden,” he asked.
There was a long silence in the room, before the doctor’s voice could be heard again: “Yes of course Tom, whatever makes you happy.”
Tom was moved and the whole process took nearly an hour. Everyone was so careful. His back and neck were so fragile. Once he was settled, tired but so proud of himself and so happy to be able to look up and see other things than the floor, he asked about Leon and if he could visit him. The head nurse thought it might be the right time to tell him: “Leon is dead.”
Tom was shocked and started crying. He was missing the old man’s soft voice, his encouraging words. He promised himself to cherish his memory forever.
“Would you kindly open the curtains please”, he asked the nurse. He wanted to reconnect with Leon through that blue sky and this garden full of beautiful trees.
The nurse pulled the curtain open. Behind the window, was a grey wall covering the whole space. The Hospital extension done some 10 years ago, took away any free space on the grounds and the new buildings were jammed between the old ones.
“But I don’t understand, there is nothing to see, no sky, no park, no sea.’ Tom was bewildered and completely lost. “How did Leon describe all that, day after day, a new scenery, and my girl?!”
“Leon was blind,’ said the nurse. ‘Completely blind since his childhood. He could have never seen anything, even if the window was not blocked.”
Tom’s tears were now rolling on his cheeks. He understood how much Leon must have wanted to save him, to make him feel good. All the stories that led to faith, to loving life, planning a future. All these colours that he might have never seen or known had repainted Tom’s days with aliveness and the will to get better.
He owed the old man so much. It was hope and love and attention, it was compassion and kindness that had healed Tom. The young man knew now that he would walk again, that his life was not ending at all but starting anew. In his heart the voice of Leon will always ring faith and trust for a better tomorrow.