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The Cab Ride: The Closing of a Life

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The Cab Ride: The Closing of a Life
By Linus Joseph Dewald Jr., Editor
Spring 2009 and Revised 21 Jan 2009

In writing so many articles for the Prentice Newsletter, typing the date of death has become routine and automatic without any reflection.

A friend sent us an email which gave us pause as to the meaning of the end of life. The original author is unknown.

The Cab Ride - The Closing Of a life
So
I walked to the door and knocked. 'Just a minute', answered a frail,
elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor.
  
After
a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 90's stood before
me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned
on it, like somebody out of a 1940s movie.
 
By
her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one
had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets.
 
There
were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters.
In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.

'Would
you carry my bag out to the car?' she said. I took the suitcase to the
cab, then returned to assist the woman.

She
took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb.
 
She
kept thanking me for my kindness. 'It's nothing', I told her. 'I just
try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated'.
 
'Oh,
you're such a good boy', she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me
an address, and then asked, 'Could you drive through downtown?'

'It's
not the shortest way,' I answered quickly.

'Oh,
I don't mind,' she said. 'I'm in no hurry. I'm on my way to a hospice'.

I
looked in the rear-view mirror. Her eyes were glistening. 'I don't have
any family left,' she continued. 'The doctor says I don't have very
long.' I quietly reached over and shut off the meter.

'What
route would you like me to take?' I asked.

For
the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the
building where she had once worked as an elevator operator.

We
drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when
they were newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a furniture
warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl.

Sometimes
she'd ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and
would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.

As
the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, 'I'm
tired. Let's go now'

We
drove in silence to the address she had given me.It was a low building,
like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico.  

Two
orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were
solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her.

I
opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was
already seated in a wheelchair.


'How
much do I owe you?' she asked, reaching into her purse.

'Nothing,'
I said  

'You
have to make a living,' she answered.

'There
are other passengers,' I responded.

Almost
without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly.

'You
gave an old woman a little moment of joy,' she said.

'Thank you.'  

I
squeezed her hand, and then walked into the dim morning light. 

Behind
me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.

I
didn't pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly lost in
thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that
woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift?

What
if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?

On
a quick review, I don't think that I have done anything more important
in my life.

We're
conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great
moments.

But
great moments often catch us unaware-beautifully wrapped in what others
may consider a small one.

People
May not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will
always remember how you made the feel.

You
won't get any big surprise in 10 days if you send this to ten people.
But, you might help make the world a little kinder and more
compassionate by sending it on.

Thank you, my friend...  

Life
may not be the party we hoped for, but while we are here we might as well dance.

If you have any thoughts about nearing the end of life, please send them to us at the Prentice Newsletter. Be sure to give the full title and date of this article in the Subject line of the email.

Caution: If you don't use the above email link, your email to us may be deleted as spam by our email filter.


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