“Use the call button on the side panel of your bed if you need a nurse. My shift is almost over. Can I get you anything before I leave?”
It took me a few seconds to remember where I was as I stared at the friendly face of the nurse standing over me.
“Pain meds would be lovely” I answered immediately. I had been in an accident earlier, falling three feet off a friend’s deck and shattering my hip. At first I felt nothing; then incredible pain started coursing its way up from my toes to the crowns on my teeth. Moving a millimeter caused me to scream out in agony. Too bad I’d forgotten to wear my suit of armor!
“Your next round is in two hours – a specially-prepared cocktail to get you through this. Until then, try to get some rest” the nurse suggested.
I’m a firm believer that copious amounts of pain medication should be dispensed frequently but apparently here in the hospital my opinion is worthless. I smiled wanly and asked the nurse for my iPhone; if I couldn’t have propofol at least I could have music.
Trying to rest in a hospital is next to impossible. Patients crying out, buzzers buzzing, machines whirring, carts rolling, elevators dinging, doctors discussing. Even the mourning doves who held dominion over the sparrows on my windowsill were cooing incessantly.
I slip in my earbuds and cue up The Beatles “Helter Skelter” – the best and only hard rock, heavy metal song they ever recorded. No matter how shitty I may be feeling at any given moment, listening to that masterpiece makes life perfect for 4 minutes and 29 seconds.
Someone wheels in my dinner cart. Lifting the lid I see a bowl of soup, a sandwich, a beverage and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Not feeling hungry just yet, I go through my collection of albums trying to decide which one to play. Ah, “Revolver”. You can never go wrong with that beauty. I close my eyes and revel in the genius that is George Harrison singing “Taxman“.
I’m suddenly aware of a rush of air and find I am now outside floating uptown over the streets of Manhattan, my hospital gown flapping like laundry on the clothesline. I hear the old-fashioned car horn sound of “Ahooga” behind me and swivel round to see a flying ice cream truck being driven by none other than John Lennon. Somehow as bizarre as it all is it seems perfectly normal.
“You getting in? We don’t want to be late” John says.
“Late for what?” I ask.
“For whatever comes next” John replies with a grin and I slide onto the seat beside him. “It’s very rude to be late, isn’t it?” and we zoom off.
“What’s on your bucket list, me darlin’?” John asks me and I answer without hesitation “To go to Liverpool!”
“Ah, me lovely Liverpool. I won’t be going back there again, I’m afraid. Next stop: The Dakota!” John calls out and we swoosh away.
“No, John. You mustn’t!” I beg him and I start to cry.
“Oh, but I must! Now dry those eyes. It is what is and we can’t change that.“
John turns to face me, taking my hand in his, and continues:
“When Paul and I met for the first time, do you think we had any idea what tomorrow would bring? Of course not! We didn’t have a clue where we were going in our lives. We were kids still wet behind the ears! Then we met George and we three became as close as brothers, but we didn’t know that the best was yet to come. George brought Ringo into the group and look what happened. Well, you know; you were there with us at Shea! It was a phenomenon!
You can never stop tomorrow unless you stop today just like I can’t stop what’s going to happen to me. I’m scared but this is my destiny. Tomorrow will always happen and yet tomorrow never knows.”
He was silent for a moment, deep in thought, then he spoke very fervently to me looking me straight in the eyes.
“Nancy, listen to what I’m going to say. Aim for the stars. Work hard, love with your whole heart, be the best person you can be but never ever forget to have fun. Time is fleeting so always eat dessert first. Got it? Good! Now, let’s be on our way.”
And as I nod in agreement I can hear the faint words “Try to realize it’s all within yourself. No one else can make you change and to see you’re really only very small and life flows within you and without you.”
And in a flash John and his flying ice cream truck were gone.
I open my eyes and prop myself up on my hospital bed pillow. Dinner is still there, right where I left it, and I find I’m suddenly starving. Ignoring all the food on my tray, I go directly to the Ben & Jerry’s, pop open the pint of ice cream and dig in. I realize until this moment nothing in my life ever tasted so delicious.