The Unheard Questions

February 26, 2009

The sunlight could scarcely come through the tightly drawn Venetian blinds. The room was dimly lit except for the artificial glow of the television mounted high on the wall. The partially drawn blinds of the other wall revealed the inner world of the I.C.U. – the green phosphorous glow of monitors, the scurrying of people in surgical scrubs, and busy nurses.

In this room the urgency of the I.C.U. desk was replaced by the slow, rhythmic, raspy sound of the respirator and the well-modulated voice of an announcer summoning, “Come on down, you’re the next contestant…

The face on the pillow was pale and distorted by the tubes that sustained an unconscious life.

The wife’s anxious voice began, “We meant to call you earlier. He slipped into a coma yesterday.”

A new kitchen featuring a no frost freezer…,” the T.V. blared accompanied by the applause of the studio audience.

“We think he was baptized, do you have records of it, do you remember him?” another interrupted.

“No, I don’t remember him, but I can check the records,” I replied.

“… a portable, convertible, under counter dishwasher…,” the well-modulated voice continued.

“We never really attended church much,” the wife admitted, “we were always so busy. We had hoped that you could talk with him.”

The audience went wild as the announcer exclaimed, “A new car … comes with air conditioning, sports package, and California emissions…”

“Would you like me to have a prayer with you?” I asked, knowing that it would be difficult to find the words.

The prayer was followed by our silence as we stood and watched. The wife caressed the patient’s face and hands and told him, “I love you.”

As we turned to leave the room, my curiosity got the better of me, and I asked, “Why the television?” leaving unspoken the words—for an unconscious man.

The wife replied, “He’s calmer with it on.”

Her answer haunts me. Where is the quiet amid so much busyness and noise? Where is the silence needed to reflect on who am I, why am I here, is there a God, where do I stand before Him? These essential questions of life become the unheard questions, drowned out by the din of modern living, while too many slip “calmly” into eternity.