Section (A)
Graceful Hands
I have never seen Mrs. Clark before, but I know from her medical chart and the report I receivedfrom the preceding shift that tonight she will die.
The only light in her room is coming from a piece of medical equipment, which is flashing its red lightas if in warning. As I stand there, the smell hits my nose, and I close my eyes as I remember the smellof decay from past experience. In my mouth I have a sour, vinegar taste coming from the pit of mystomach. I reach for the light switch, and as it silently lights the scene, I return to the bed to observethe patient with an unemotional, medical eye.
Mrs. Clark is dying. She lies motionless: the head seems unusually large on a skeleton body; the skinis dark yellow and hangs loosely around exaggerated bones that not even a blanket can hide; the rightarm lies straight out at the side, taped cruelly to a board to secure a needle so that fluid may drip in;the left arm is across the sunken chest, which rises and falls with the uneven breaths.
I reach for the long, thin fingers that are lying on the chest. They are ice cold, and I quickly move tothe wrist and feel for the faint pulse. Mrs. Clark's eyes open somewhat as her head turns toward meslightly. I bend close to her and scarcely hear as she whispers, "Water." Taking a glass of water fromthe table, I put my finger over the end of the straw and allow a few drops of the cool moisture to slideinto her mouth and ease her thirst. She makes no attempt to swallow; there is just not enough strength.
"More," the dry voice says, and we repeat the procedure. This time she does manage to swallow someliquid and weakly says, "Thank, you."She is too weak for conversation, so without asking, I go about providing for her needs. Picking herup in my arms like a child, I turn her on her side. Naked, except for a light hospital gown, she is so verysmall and light that she seems like a victim of some terrible famine. I remove the lid from a jar of skincream and put some on the palm of my hand. Carefully, to avoid injuring her, I rub cream into theyellow skin, which rolls freely over the bones, feeling perfectly the outline of each bone in the back.
Placing a pillow between her legs, I notice that these too are ice cold, and not until I run my hand upover her knees do I feel any of the life-giving warmth of blood.
When I am finished, I pull a chair up beside the bed to face her and, taking her free hand betweenmine, again notice the long, thin fingers. Graceful. I wonder briefly if she has any family, and then I seethat there are neither flowers, nor pictures of rainbows and butterflies drawn by children, nor cards.
There is no hint in the room anywhere that this is a person who is loved. As though she is a mindreader, Mrs. Clark answers my thoughts and quietly tells me, "I sent ... my family ... home ... tonight ...
didn't want ... them ... to see ..." Having spent her last ounce of strength she cannot go on, but I haveunderstood what she has done. Not knowing what to say, I say nothing. Again she seems to sense mythoughts, "You …stay …"Time seems to stand still. In the total silence, I feel my own pulse quicken and hear my breathing asit begins to match hers, breath for uneven breath. Our eyes meet and somehow, together, we becomeaware that this is a special moment between two human beings ... Her long fingers curl easily aroundmy hand and I nod my head slowly, smiling. Without words, through yellowed eyes, I receive my thankyou and her eyes slowly close.
Some unknown interval of time passes before her eyes open again, only this time there is no responsein them, just a blank stare. Without warning, her shallow breathing stops, and within a few moments,the faint pulse is also gone. One single tear flows from her left eye, across the cheek and down onto thepillow. I begin to cry quietly. There is a swell of emotion within me for this stranger who so quicklycame into and went from my life. Her suffering is done, yet so is the life. Slowly, still holding her hand, Ibecome aware that I do not mind this emotional battle, that in fact, it was a privilege she has allowedme, and I would do it again, gladly. Mrs. Clark spared her family an episode that perhaps they were notequipped to handle and instead shared it with me. She had not wanted to have her family see her die,yet she did not want to die alone. No one should die alone, and I am glad I was there for her.
Two days later, I read about Mrs. Clark in the newspaper. She was the mother of seven,grandmother of eighteen, an active member of her church, a leader of volunteer associations in hercommunity, a concert piano player, and a piano teacher for over thirty years.
Yes, they were long and graceful fingers.
New Words
graceful a. 1.优美的,优雅的 2.得体的
chart n. 图,图表
vt. 制图表
preceding a. 在前的,在先的,前面的
decay n. 变坏,腐烂,衰败
vi. 1.腐烂,变坏 2.衰退,衰落,衰败
vinegar n. 醋
pit n. 1.坑 2.矿井,煤矿
▲skeleton n. 1.骨骼,骨架 2.梗概,提要
loose a. 1.宽松的,不紧的 2.自由的,散漫的
loosely ad. 松地,大致地
secure vt. 1.关紧,固定 2.使安全,保护 3.得到,获得
a. 1.安全的 2.牢固的 3.无忧的,安心的
fluid n. 液体,流体
drip v. 滴
n. 1.(连续落下的)液滴 2.一滴
faint a. 1.微弱的 2.虚弱
pulse n. 脉搏
vi. 搏动,跳动
straw n. 1.吸管,麦管 2.稻草,麦杆
moisture n. 潮湿,湿气
slide v. 1.(使)滑动 2.(使)悄悄地移动
n. 1.滑,滑行 2.幻灯片
thirst n. 1.渴,口渴 2.渴望
liquid n. 液体
naked a. 1.赤身的,裸露的 2.赤裸裸的,无遮蔽的
▲gown n. 女长服;罩衣
famine n. 饥荒
lid n. 盖,盖子
jar n. 罐子,坛子
palm n. 1.手掌,掌心 2.棕榈树
injure vt. 伤害,损伤
outline n. 1.轮廓,外形 2.要点,大纲
vt. 概述
pillow n. 枕头
rainbow n. 虹,彩虹
butterfly n. 蝴蝶
hint n. 1.细微的迹象 2.暗示,提示
v. 暗示
reader n. 1.读者 2.读物,读本
ounce n. (重量单位)盎司
being n. 1.生物,人 2.存在
interval n. 1.间隔,间距 2.幕间休息,中场休息
blank a. 1.茫然的,无表情的 2.空白的,无字的,空着的
n. 空白
shallow a. 1.(呼吸)浅的,弱的 2.浅的 3.肤浅的,浅薄的
n. 浅水处,浅滩
emotion n. 情感,感情,激情
privilege n. 特权,优惠
episode n. 1.一个事件,一组事件 2.(尤指电视或无线电广播的)一集,一出,一部分
association n. 1.协会,社团,组织 2.联合,结交,结合
Phrases and Expressions
the pit of the stomach 胸口,心窝
hang around sth. (使)在……上挂着, (使)围在……上
so that 为的是,以便
reach for 伸出手以触到或拿到
feel for (用手、足、棍等)摸索,寻找
turn towards 转向
bend to 俯向
make an attempt to do sth. 尝试,企图
go about doing sth. 着手处理,开始做
provide for sth. 为可能发生的事做安排
pick sb. up 举起,抱起
pull up 把... ...拉过来,把... ...拉向前
Proper Names
Mrs. Clark 克拉克夫人