The broken glass and miscellaneous pieces of metal crackled under the feet of the ambulance attendants. The legs of the stretcher folded up under itself as it was pushed into the white van. One attendant got in the front and started the engine. The other climbed in the back with the victim and positioned himself directly behind the driver. The paramedic pushed his medical box inside and out of the way, and then entered the van and took a seat opposite the man lying on the stretcher. A policeman then climbed in and pulled the doors closed after him.
"Let's go," the attendant commanded of the driver and the high pitched scream of the siren split the night. With a jerk, the van began its lonely journey to the hospital.
"Can you get him to answer some questions? I need some answers," the man in blue demanded.
"If you cannot help, then, stay out of the way," snapped the paramedic. The paramedic reached over his head and grabbed a microphone and began a conversation with the doctor on duty at the waiting hospital. The attendant and the paramedic followed the instructions that were emitting from a speaker at the front of the mobile medical room. They worked with precision on the still body while they relayed the data back to the hospital.
"Please, I need a few answers about what happened," the officer insisted. He realized that he was not going to get anywhere by being authoritative, so he tried his appeal from a different angle. "My sarge hung my ass last time I came in without sufficient information from a multiple car wreck like this. When will I be able to ask him just a few questions?"
"We'll be lucky to keep him alive let alone able to answer any questions. Please let us do our job and if he's lucky, you'll be the first to know."
He turned his attention once again to the radio, "E.T.A. is three minutes, breathing is shallow but steady ..."
"I have never been here but I know where I am. A little ahead is my house. I can almost see it through the fog. So, this is what it is like to be dead," he thinks to himself.
A voice answers his unspoken words and although he plainly hears the voice, he knows if he turns, he will not see anyone. "No, you are not dead - yet. But you will be joining us very shortly."
"Why am I here then?" No answer. "Ah ... I know, I'm to say good bye to those I care about." The answer to his questions did not come as words but rather as ideas to enlighten his awareness.
His attention is again on the house. This time, however, he is inside, standing in the living room. A woman is staring out the window facing away from him. Aware of his presence, she turns and walks over to him. A moving kiss greets him and then a warm, long hug. It is his second wife and although the demise of their marriage was bitter for both of them, the differences now melt away as snow melts with the warmth of a spring shower. The feelings that they have for each other, are able to be freely expressed. Separating, they kiss once more and then he turns.
Behind him are his son and daughter. He and his son shake hands and then embrace. He had always had such hopes and plans for his son, but the young man had had his own desires. Many heated arguments had developed because of these differences and the boy, wanting to please his father, had done as his dad requested. Resentment had set in and their relationship had deteriorated. He is now able to recognize his son's feelings and is able to accept them.
He now approaches his daughter. He had treated her differently than the other members of the family, and he had always been accused of being wrapped around her little finger. Although he denied it, he knew it was true. Their relationship had always been close, until she married a boy whom he disapproved of. They are still close, but now reserved.
He walks over to her and they look at one another for a while. A long hug is followed by a kiss and then a slap on his bottom, an anti-sexist act of affection that she had always done to him as she was growing up. She had not done that since her engagement and he had missed it more than he realized.
He puts his arm around her shoulder and pulls her close. They then walk over to his son and he puts his other arm around his son's shoulder and draws him near. His ex-wife walks over and puts her arms around them all. After a moment, they look at each other, smile and then, as abruptly as he had arrived, he is again in the fog.
"I'm ready," he says. "Thank you."
"Don't thank me, thank HIM. And to ease your journey, there is a surprise for you."
The fog begins to dissipate and a bright radiant light shines before him. A figure begins to approach him, blocking the glare. It suddenly comes to him.
"Dorothy," he says, almost unable to believe his eyes. His first wife, who died in childbirth thirty years earlier, stretches out her arm for him. Walking towards her, he puts his hand in hers. She turns around and they both walk towards the blinding light.
The paramedic reached down to the base of the stretcher and pulled the blanket up over the body. The attendant taps on the window separating him from the driver. "You can slow down and turn that blasted noise off." As he spoke, the ambulance pulled into the emergency entrance, the rear door flew open and the interns, nurses and a doctor grab the stretcher and rush the covered body into the ER where they spent the next five minutes trying to revive the lifeless body.
The paramedic went to the lounge for a cup of coffee. "I'll buy," a voice said from behind him. The paramedic turned to see the police officer approach him.
"I didn't mean to give you a hard time. This is just the third patient I've lost today. It get irritating," replies the paramedic.
"I should think so," the officer answered. He handed the cup of coffee to the paramedic and put the second set of quarters in the machine. He retrieved the cup of brownish black liquid and they walk over to an empty table.
"Tell me, the patient seemed to be saying something just before he died. Could you understand him," the officer inquired, hoping for a clue about the accident.
"It was quite faint but he seemed to say 'I love you ... goodbye!'"