I've stood on Main Street since 1905. I've watched the sun turn more times than I can count. I've seen new life enter. I've witnessed old life pass. I am a doctor's office. Some assume I am defined by the people that enter. But that's wrong. My life-force stems from the people that exit every day. They are what make me worth anything.
After so many turns under the sun, there is very little I haven't seen before. Sickness, disease, injuries, they all enter here. There was a time that a mother rushing in with her wheezing infant arose worry within me, but now, I know better. The doctor knows better. All is well. The young mother needs comfort more than her child needs antibiotics. That's what the world doesn't understand about me. I am a place to go for sickness but, more so, I am a place of healing.
The young and inexperienced mother slumps in her seat, caught between relief and exhaustion in the doctor's relay that her child will be fine. The sniffles will pass. The doctor, my doctor, extends a gentle hand. He knows the strain of her heart, he's seen it a thousand times. But, somehow, each is different. I know that this young mother will not double over with fear but will rage against any and all that threaten her child. I smile to myself as she wraps him in his blanket, preparing to leave.
Meanwhile, I see a middle-aged couple walk in. I have fond memories of these two. They've been with my doctor for several decades and greet one another as friends. I've watched them marry, have children and grow into their silver years, together. There's a twinge deep inside when I remember the diagnosis the wife recently had. She's decided to cover her head with a beautiful, hand-woven winter cap. Her blue eyes twinkle as she jokes with the receptionist. Cancer won't get her down. I see the young wife she once was through the fine lines on her face. She's still there.
Then something else catches my attention. Several staff members are gathered behind the receptionist's desk, their faces marred with worry.
"I don't think he has much time left," the nurse mutters.
The medical coder nods, "We just got it. You're probably right."
I take a closer look at the computer screen, a fax for hospice care has yet to be printed for the doctor's signature. I read the name and I nearly feel the hot tears behind their eyes.
"He's been coming here forever," the nurse straightens her stethoscope, a tell-tale sign that she's uncomfortable--it's a gesture I've seen a thousand times.
The young coder just nods. I watch her closely. She's only been a member of our family for a handful of years. Surely, her connection to this dying patient couldn't be that strong. The nurse leaves to resume her job in the back office, but I stay with the coder.
She prints the hospice order and whispers, "People live hard lives." I watch as she pulls the form from the copier and leaves it for the doctor's review and, with eyes closed, "But good lives. I pray good lives."
The unfolding tapestry of life in the rest of the office suddenly pales for me. She, this young woman, has fully captured my attention. I watch as she scrolls through pictures on her phone. She stops on a rather unremarkable one. A picture of her and her husband. I watch, confusedly, as she smiles whilst simultaneously wiping a tear from her eye. This one warrants further watching.
I am and have never been defined by the people that enter, but by the people that exit. They whose hearts are rendered a little less complete each day by what happens within my walls. They are what give me worth.