An oxygen tank.
We’ve all seen them before and know what they are. Hopefully, none of us have to use one, or ever, ever, will. But there is always that possibility.
Although, some people like to use oxygen tanks. Like scuba divers. They need that precious air to explore the depths beneath the water’s surface. Whatever water that may be. Personally, I don’t even like to take baths. That’s how much I like to have my oxygen on my own accord.
Ah, but then there are times when the oxygen tank is a must. That is one thing about us humans. Our bodies require the oxygen that is in the air around us to operate, to function, to work.
It is amazing when you think of it. The process. The nuts and bolts of it. All of this goes on in our little bodies without one little bit of help from us. No prodding. No concentration. We don’t sit around saying, “Breathe, nimrod, BREATHE!” No. We just do it.
We draw in, and our systems get to work. We suck in that good old oxygen, and down it goes, into the lungs via breathing. Once it gets to our very fine set of lungs, which is sort of like a bus stop, it is transported by red blood cells to the entire body to be used to produce energy. Heart, head. The whole dang thing.
Then, once the red blood cells return to the lungs, the “burnt” carbon dioxide is exhaled. I could tell you more about the mitochondria. But enough is enough. You get the picture. Old huffing and puffing and blowing the house down, and such.
But I saw one today — an oxygen tank — and it made me think of my Dad. He was 91 years old, when he was forced to go on oxygen. His entire life, he was fit as a fiddle. And then, in the last six months, things unraveled here and there. His ability to draw oxygen was one of them.
We were like Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, he and I, with that dang oxygen tank. But we clumsied our way through it. Sometimes we’d laugh. Other times we’d cry. He knew he was dying. He didn’t really want to go either. But we aren’t the deciders of those things. Not most of the time, anyway.
One day, he, my Mom, and I were sitting in their nursing facility. (My Mom filled with dementia.) But I asked them both what they thought it would be like on the other side. My Dad was a very smart man. He sat for the longest time silent. Finally, after several minutes, he shook his head, and said, “I wouldn’t even have a guess.”
It was a bit sad, and quiet. I jumped in, and suggested that it might be like the light fantastic. That at the very moment we died, that it would come like a blinding rush of awareness. That all at once, a surge, a wave, a feeling of extreme bliss, ecstasy, and serenity would rush over us. And in that moment, we would know everything. It would be enlightenment beyond our imagination.
We sat still, blinking, looking at one another.
And then my Mom leaned over slowly and said, “Well. It better be a hell of a lot better than that.”
The life she breathed into that moment was incredible and irreplaceable and priceless. The path of good energy making the trip, full cycle.
Today, I hope we can all be the oxygen in someone’s life. From our very being. Simple. And good.
“I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.”
― Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh
“Remember to breathe. It is after all, the secret of life.”
― Gregory Maguire, A Lion Among Men