Education  |   February 2018
One More Step
Author Notes
  • From St. Francis Regional Medical Center, Shakopee, Minnesota, and the Minnesota Valley Surgery Center, Burnsville, Minnesota.
  • Accepted for publication July 12, 2017.
    Accepted for publication July 12, 2017.×
Article Information
Education / Mind to Mind / Gastrointestinal and Hepatic Systems / Ophthalmologic Anesthesia / Respiratory System / Technology / Equipment / Monitoring
Education   |   February 2018
One More Step
Anesthesiology 2 2018, Vol.128, 417-418. doi:10.1097/ALN.0000000000001820
Anesthesiology 2 2018, Vol.128, 417-418. doi:10.1097/ALN.0000000000001820
“Open your eyes Mrs. Jones and I’ll take that breathing tube out.”
Dr. Walker’s baritone voice calls down through the tepid blue water, calling me back from the depths of a shimmering pool that has stairs leading down to the brightest light I’ve ever seen. Pumped full of anesthesia, I ignore his plea, as I teeter on the edge of a submerged step.
“Mrs. Jones, it’s time to wake up.”
I have been dead before, you know. Earlier on in my seventies, I suffered a cardiac arrest and went all the way down to the bottom of the stairs and into the lustrous void, before they resuscitated me. I discovered then that we are not at all what we suppose ourselves to be. I look over my shoulder, down into the fathomless pool. I’m tempted to go to the bottom again.
“Mrs. Jones—Rose—open your eyes, Rose.”
Dr. Walker grinds his knuckles into my sternum. I look up and see he’s distressed. He double checks his machines and gadgets. He wiggles the breathing tube, which makes me retch.
As I look back down, my mother swims up from the brilliance below, wearing a translucent robe. Her emerald eyes sparkle. She giggles and smothers me with hugs and kisses like when I was a young girl. She swims circles around and around me, and before I realize what’s happening, she lifts me toward the surface. As hard as I try, there’s nothing that I can do to stop her. She’s my mother after all, and I don’t want to disappoint her again. Not after everything I put her through.
“You have to go back. It’s not your time.” She dries my tears with her long radiant hair.
“I’m so sorry for what I did, mother. I meant to tell you everything but, I didn’t want to hurt you.”
“Whatever you’re worried about Rose, you need to let it go.” She caresses my cheeks in her buttery hands. “None of that matters here.”
She puts a finger on my lips. “There will be plenty of time later, but just not yet.” She points to the water’s surface, and I feel myself rising on the bubbly effervescence of her forgiveness. The lights above grow brighter, and the descending steps turn murky once again.
As I poke my head through to Dr. Walker’s side of the water, my eye twitches.
“She’s in there alright.” Everyone in the operating room seems relieved. “Are you having any pain?”
I open my mouth to answer “yes,” and I feel the breathing tube slide out of my throat. “Where am I?”
“Just relax and lie back. We’re still in the operating room. You’re doing fine.”
But I don’t feel fine. He unstraps my arms and leans over; close enough for me to smell his coffee breath. Overwhelmed with panic and confusion, I reach up and wrap my arms around his neck. “Mommy. Please come back, Mommy.”
Dr. Walker places a firm hand on my chest and gently forces me back down to the operating table. “You’re just waking up from a bad dream, Rose. Everything is going to be okay.”
I look into his kindred eyes and see streaks of red. I feel bad for causing him worry, but he has it all wrong. It wasn’t a bad dream. I got to see my mother again, and I’m certain my beloved husband, John, was waiting just beyond her. I wonder if he had forgiven me, too.
If only I’d taken one more step.