Kind, and devoted to patients at the VA Clinic, she doted on each one.

When he walked in with numbers bouncing off the charts she refused

to allow him to leave until his blood pressure came down, unaware

the meds prescribed were more than he could bear.

Returning home, he crumpled on a chair, soaked in a cold sweat,

eyes rolled back in a head flopped over to one side as if it could no longer

support the onerous weight of a skull packed full of a warehouse

of worries and words.
Tremulous, nauseous, barely able to hear medics, yelling:

“He has no pulse! Hold on! Stay with me! Stay with me!

Breathe! Breathe! Breathe!” Tubed with oxygen he began

to revive, drifting in and out of a liminal place as if he was submerged.

Worried voices came from a distance. With quivering lips his muffled

utterances could not be heard. He felt like a wounded rifleman, lying

on the blood-soaked sands of Guadalcanal. He was as helpless

as a turtle on his back, unable to move.

He felt strangely passive, yielding to a sensation of floating

away on a cloud. Like a groom at a wedding he was suddenly

hoisted aloft on a chair and onto a gurney. Outside, he could

hear gleeful voices of the neighbor’s children jumping

on a trampoline.
Under a sheltering sky he gazed dazedly at a rim of radiant white

clouds suffused with pristine clear light. He wondered if that was

The First Invitation one sees before crossing the bar to the celestial aura.



The shiny tunnel of steel in a sleek ambulance made him think

of his father’s dream of touring the country in an Airstream trailer,

during a retirement that never came. Providing for mother, his father’s

only concern at the end.
In the emergency room surrounded by the elixir of loved ones,

he recalled how he winced with pain when he first saw his father

lying on a hospital gurney. But unlike Father, who spent his final

hours on the phone trading options, he fixated on the eye of a wren

watching him perched on a limb outside the window and decided

to write a poem.

Milton P. Ehrlich