Dignity

He was sick. Not sick in the sense that a person with a cold is sick. He had no control over his body, it had become a dysfunctional shell housing only a broken soul.

His brain still worked well. He realised that the vessel had given up and the spirit was trapped. The bars of his existence were those of his own flesh. 

With a course and croaky voice he was able to respond to some questions with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ but mostly he stared forward. 

He couldn’t move his eyes anymore, not easily. So he looked at the same spot most of the day. Sometimes the nurse would put his wheelchair in a position that he could look out the window. It was torture. The people outside were going to visit friends, family. Lovers walked hand in hand. He preferred the days where he just stared at a wall. At least the wall didn’t make him feel envious. 

In the evening the nurse put him in front of the television in the common area with all the other patients. She turned the tele on. It was a debate between a pastor, an imam, a humanist and a terminally ill woman on euthanasia. The woman wanted to end her life before her disease took full hold of her. 

As the debate progressed he looked in the mirror that was hanging just above the television and browsed the room. There he was, once a social and active man stuck in a room with tens of others who were also once youthful and vibrant human beings chasing their dreams. They were all confined to wheelchairs. They couldn’t leave the complex. They were wearing diapers because their muscles had given up. The only time they had any interaction were the rare times that a friend or family member would come by. 

Then he focussed his attention again to the discussion on television. “The sanctity of life, that’s what I believe in”, said the pastor to the television host, the imam nodded. “Life is a gift of God, if we take life then we play God. We should instead take the best of care of you, madam, so that you should not suffer.” She replied: “and pastor, imam, do you believe in the sanctity of my dignity?” 

He focussed his sight on the mirror again and looked at Fred who had shat himself. He knew this because the nurse sped towards Fred and quickly wheeled him out of the common room. His pants were wet too. The stench of urine hung in the room. 

He didn’t know Fred, because they couldn’t hold a conversation. But from what he had heard from the nurse when Fred first arrived at the complex he was a sailor who traveled the world. Fred hadn’t left his wheelchair, or the confines of the department for more than a year now. Fred probably hadn’t travelled more than a kilometer this year if you added it all up. 

As he thought about Fred a phrase echoed in his head: pastor, imam, do you believe in the sanctity of my dignity? 

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