I went to church today for the first time in a long time. A nurse that I work with went with, and we took two clients.
It's been a long time since I went to church, and it meant a lot to me to be there with two of our people. One of them is a hulking big fellow, non-verbal, but he has haunted me since the very first time I interacted with him. I clipped his nails and blabbed away while I rubbed scented lotion into his hands. He watched me as I talked, and when I moved on to another client, his gaze followed me as I moved across the room.
I found myself thinking, "What if?" He cannot talk. His body is stiff and useless. What if, inside that body, there is a brain which works? What if? So I try to spend time with him, talk to him, keep him entertained. I tell him that he is my favorite, just in case. Last night, I put him to bed, and I talked, and when I turned off his light, and I said, gently, "Good night, my friend," and his eyes were white in his dark face, and they were fixed on me in the dim light.
I found myself wondering, once again, "What if?" What if he can feel and think, and is trapped with no way to show the outside world that inside that huge body there is a mind? How would it feel to be that person?
I couldn't help it. I went back to him, for just a few moments, to talk to him in the dark, and to stroke his hair. Just in case.
This morning, he went with us to church, and we had to leave before the final hymn. The nurse said, "He doesn't like to miss the last hymn," and I was a little startled. I wondered again, what was behind his thick glasses? Behind those serious brown eyes? But I saw it, when we loaded him into the wheelchair van. His eyes fixed on me, and he was disappointed. I saw it, and it made me a little sick.
He loves the singing, and when we got home, I pulled the program out of my pocket. I said, "Willie, I have Tuesday, and Wednesday, and Thursday off...I think we should see if we could go to choir rehearsal one of those nights, and you know what? We're not leaving early." His eyes were locked on mine.
I put the program back in my pocket. I will go there on my day off, and I will take him to hear the music. I cannot know what goes on behind his large brown eyes, but we will go. Just in case.