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  • Writer's pictureruthannelphillips

Love and Magic

This month I lost my first patient. He was twenty four years old and he was hit by a car while riding his motor cycle. This was my last call of the night. On the drive home, I kept thinking about who was going to tell his mother. I thought of the young girl who had hit him. How she was crying and alone in the middle of the highway. And I thought of this young man’s shoes. I know, right? I kept thinking about his shoes. They were leather Sperry Topsiders. And he wasn’t wearing any socks. For some reason this struck a direct blow to my heart.

When I got home, my husband asked me if I was okay and if I was sure that this was the job for me.

Good question.

He knows that I still tear up when I think of my pets which have died. He knows I blubbered for days when my Chihuahua went missing. I am an on again/off again vegetarian because I am not comfortable with killing things. Everything that is alive wants to live and I don’t think I should be the one to snuff out a life – even that of a chicken.

And here I am dealing with people. Dead and dying people.

Out of the eight calls I went on, five of them were non emergencies. Five. Five people had called an ambulance instead of a friend, instead of a taxi. Of the five, four were morbidly obese and sat in their chairs and gave orders. All were lonely and afraid. All had stacks of pills and bottles and cigarettes. All reeked of despair.

There is a saying that you should live like you are dying. Well, the reality is, you are. You are dying. From the moment you are born, there is no two ways about it – you will die. We just don’t know when.

I know an elderly man who comes to our morning devotion. He has the Bible memorized. He corrects others as they read the Bible. He spouts out the rules and regulations required to get into Heaven. He believes the only Bible that is the Word of God is the King James Version. “There is no other way!” he bellows at us.

He knows all of the answers.

From what I know about this man, and from what I see, he is not overly kind. In fact, he is somewhat boorish and self-centered. It surprises me that he does not appear overly anxious to die and go to Heaven. He tells us it is a glorious place where you will meet up with all of your loved ones, or at least those who have followed all of the rules.

That may be why he is not overly eager to get there.

And the rules?

The Ten Commandments are direct orders from God and encompass the Golden Rule. I am a huge fan of the Golden Rule.

But the rest?

Maybe some of those stories were included in the Bible to show us what assholes we can be – how not to behave. Obviously it is not okay to have slaves and stone people. And yet historically, folks have used the Bible to justify those exact things.

And what about eating shrimp and bacon? Will that really keep us out of Heaven?

What I do get is the magic thing.

I want to be able to wish and pray and make good things happen. I want to make the bad things go away. In fact, that is what I do. I am in constant communication with God. Hoping, wishing and praying. It is relentless – this belief in my ability to control the world – which is so God Damn much out of my control.

But I still believe in Love.

And I still believe in magic.

Those beliefs are so strong in me that even in the face of hard fact and science, I still pray for miracles.

I find it odd that so many Christians believe that it was the death of Christ and His rising that is the miracle. I believe the miracle is Jesus’ actual life - the way he lived. He lived with love and passion. He lived with intellect. He cared about family and justice and community and friendship. He did not wall himself up in a hut with wine and give orders. He did not hide in a church. He made magic. He was magic.

I find it depressing that the Bible is used to justify the repression and cloistering of others. The women of the Bible did not make it into the Bible because they were submissive. They are a testament to the wily, wonderful nature of woman. They are vital, amazing women who did remarkable things even while being treated like property.

Who was it that turned the Bible – the wonderful, fantastic, and magical Bible of my youth – into a tool to subjugate and control others?

I want to believe in magic - the magic where you can live in the belly of a whale.

I want to believe in a world where magic can happen every day.

I want to live in a world where people live the lives they are supposed to live. That instead of just existing and following rules and hoping for something better when they’re dead - they live a life of magic.

The shoes.

I keep going back to the shoes.

The Sperry Topsiders.

The ones with no socks.

And I keep going back to my husband’s question, “Are you sure this is the job for you?”

The shoes told me a story. They told me that this young man was his own person. He was a non-conformist. You need a strong sense of self to live in the Ozarks and wear topsiders, especially with no socks. He was wearing a helmet, so he wasn’t stupid, and if his mother is like mine, she probably nagged him relentlessly to wear one, even though she couldn’t convince him not to ride. He knew the risks of riding a motorcycle, but if you have ever been on one, you know how thrilling they can be.

Sometimes you make choices to live your life on your own terms and in your own way. You don’t play it safe, and sometimes shit happens.

I am not sure what any of this is supposed to mean. Perhaps it means I’d rather die riding on a motorcycle at 24 than dying at 65 surrounded by my food, prescription meds and cigarettes while holding my rosary.

Perhaps it means I’d rather not go to Heaven if I’m going to be surrounded by good Christians who spit on Muslims, hate “the gays,” and debase our environment.


The answer to my husband’s question is a resounding, “yes!”

Yes, I’d rather be working on a patient no matter how heartbreaking, or putting out a fire, or even getting my applications rejected time and time again, than play it safe. And, I will always choose to live in the right now, to believe in Love, and to believe - even when someone dies and miracles don’t happen - I still believe in magic.

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