AWAI Writing Challenge Winning Entry:
The Gift of Life
This year I tired of being retired, gave my furniture to my neighbors, bought a ticket to Quito, Ecuador and began a new life adventure that includes learning Spanish and taking the first steps to becoming a travel writer and photographer.
For the first three months in Quito I lived with a local family to immerse myself in the language and culture. It was there that my life was given a gift of heart that has few comparisons – the feeling that comes with giving life where there was none and rejoicing every time you see the beneficiary savoring his new time.
I was in my room when I heard the maid screaming from the living-room. I ran to investigate and saw her standing over the body of the 88 year old man of the house. There was no movement. His eyes were frozen toward the ceiling. There was no pulse or heartbeat. The family gathered wailing in panic. Reacting as if on instinct and seemingly without emotion, I began giving CPR as I recalled from training 25 years before, modified by what I thought I recalled from articles read in the ensuing years.
In retrospect one could find humor in what followed. It was like trying to crank start an old car. First only effort with no result. Then lips fluttered and sputtered as the spark of life tried to achieve ignition and then died. This happened several times until finally there was a cough, some blood ejected, a backfire, and then life. Breathing started, a pulse, and the body became animated. By the time the ambulance arrived minutes later, he was insisting on getting up, annoyed at the attention and complaining of a sore chest.
Months later and living in an apartment of my own, I visit that family and take the old man newspapers and magazines to feed his thirst to learn. I wonder about this passion of his. Why? Does he feel he needs to get something more before he leaves this world? Is it to go with him?
This gentleman got life but I received something that is possibly the greatest gift that I have ever experienced. I compare it to witnessing the miracle of the birth of one's own child, overwhelming emotion, pride and a sense of spirituality. His gift to me is renewed every week when I stop by with new reading material and see his joy of learning and his sharing his self with his family.
Thank you, Jaime.
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