Parkland Still


I have often wondered: did any of Parkland's sets of medical eyes experience a moment of stillness with the collective father who had just been declared dead? I readily acknowledge the difficulty with great humility.

"Time is involved in fear, fear of death which comes at the end of life, which may be waiting around the corner and I am afraid. So time involves fear and thought . . . See this fact . . . that time and thought… are the root of fear. Just observe it in yourself . . . Hold it, remain with it, don’t run away from it."
-J. Krishnamurti1

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_crop","fid":"21139","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image media-image-right","id":"media_crop_3451038716027","media_crop_h":"0","media_crop_image_style":"-1","media_crop_instance":"1407","media_crop_rotate":"0","media_crop_scale_h":"350","media_crop_scale_w":"287","media_crop_w":"0","media_crop_x":"0","media_crop_y":"0","style":"float: right; width: 206px; height: 250px; padding-left:10px;","title":" ","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]About 50 years ago, there lived a man who was very angry, perhaps because he had no father. He traveled abroad in search of belonging. He felt no one wanted him and in fact, no one did. This made him angrier still, and he decided he would show everyone what he was made of by killing the country’s collective father. The angry man was very good at shooting a rifle. Hiding where no one could see him, he shot the collective father in the head on a bright, sunny day.

The collective father died instantly, yet was rushed through the streets to Parkland. Parkland took him in, inspected him with its many sets of medical eyes, and declared him dead. The next day, the face of Parkland, unmoved and expressionless, received more humanity.

For the next 30 years the pattern was unwavering: enter, inspect, declare, document, next body.

Changes came about as they always do-Parkland grew larger to support the increasing waves of humanity it was required to take in. Technology was updated, more staff was hired and its innards were remodeled to process humanity more efficiently. Hallways became extensive blood vessels carrying disease fighting staff to the most urgent emergency. It was possible to walk for miles and never leave the semi-permeable membrane of Parkland.


In the remodeled version of the area that received the dead collective father, I sat on a wheeled stool and concentrated.  I wasn’t alone, but I was the only one in the room still living. A young woman lay stretched out in front of me on an emergency gurney. She had been a waitress, and a different angry man had shot her. The bullet had ripped, tumbled and torn its way through her chest.

. . . Minutes before, a group of men hovered frantically around her. They cut open her chest cavity on one side so they could grasp her heart with their hands and squeeze. Time was of the essence - just minutes ago. Now time had slowed back down. Way down. 

Minutes ago, a man squeezed her heart and cursed. Another one pumped fluid into her veins. Yet another injected her with drugs to battle her collapsing circulation. The moment she entered the room, her clothes were flung into the corner. The man squeezing the woman’s heart became agitated. At one point, he yelled at me for not pulling her chest gash wide open enough. 

In minutes, the hovering was over. All living persons left the room, except me. The heart squeezer told me to sew the gash closed. It would help speed things up. It would be good practice for me.

The contrast of frantic activity and then stillness induced in me an odd state of consciousness. I concentrated on the sutures. The concentration and the stillness only enhanced my hypnotic state. For some indeterminate period of time, I became the last living being on earth. The Omega Man. 

It was about this time that things began to seem meaningless. Meaningless was meaningless. Me and the gash.  The gash I was sewing. And sewing. 

I became narcotized to the smell of copious blood drying in pools at my feet. The woman’s clothes were still in a crumpled pile in the corner. Her mini-skirt had somehow managed to avoid any bloodstains or damage. One wash cycle and it could be back in the rotation.

In the midst of my meditative state, the senior attending walked into the room. It seemed possible that I was in the room for 5 hours. It seemed equally possible that it was 5 minutes. He peered over my shoulder. “How are those stitches coming?” "Okay,” I said, and added that I was trying to get the hang of the new suture technique the heart squeezer taught me. “Why don’t you go on and catch up with the rest of the team? Let the pathologist finish this up.” "Sure," I replied, and fell back into circulation, inside one of Parkland’s veins in search of the heart squeezer and his team.


At the time I was holding open the woman’s chest for the heart squeezer, some of the men who inspected, declared, and documented on the collective father still flowed through Parkland’s veins. They had their own special rooms and rarely came to the areas where the highly frantic inspecting happens.

After the collective father was declared dead, he was quickly extracted from Parkland. I have often wondered: did any of Parkland's sets of medical eyes experience a moment of stillness with him? I readily acknowledge the difficulty with great humility. Shock, disbelief, traumatic grief-these emotional states may ultimately lead to deep calm, but not quickly or easily.

After the woman in the mini-skirt was declared dead, Parkland, unmoved and expressionless, received more humanity.

1. Jiddu Krishnamurti Online. Time and thought make fear. Accessed November 22, 2013.

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