By Linda Margison
When I think of the word “hallway,” I am transported back to Columbus Regional Hospital in the wee hours of morning after a bathroom break at the opposite end of the unit while my sister kept watch over our sleeping mom. Needing a moment to escape and desperately trying to find a way to deal with the despair flooding through me, I put earbuds in and turned on music.
The notes from a melancholy piano pounded out and settled in my chest.
Say something, I’m giving up on you.
Piano keys slowly emitted more notes matching my steps down the hallway. I felt like I was giving up, like my fight was gone.
I’ll be the one, if you want me to.
Sorrow flooded my body with each new note. I wanted to be all she needed to feel better, but I wasn’t enough. I looked around and the world moved in slow motion.
And I am feeling so small. It was over my head. I know nothing at all.
I did feel small. I felt in over my head. I was drowning. And in the grand scheme, I knew nothing and I was nothing.
And I will stumble and fall… I’m sorry that I couldn’t get to you.
With each step and each note and each word, my mind fabricated a scenario in half-speed. People running to her room. Words being spoken. Actions being taken. I couldn’t breathe. And then it stopped. I was afraid to walk through the door.
And I will swallow my pride. You’re the one that I love, and I’m saying goodbye.
With no lingering arrogant pride telling me I could make a difference, the realization hit me: I was saying goodbye.
Each doorway along that hallway told a story of someone else’s journey. Ours just happened to be the beginning of the final stages in our time with Mom. That hall was like many other passageways with doors leading to different stories, in different directions, on different journeys.
We all travel hallways with disappointments and opportunities. Some doors we open and enter. While the consequences are unknown, we take those steps and learn along the way, whether we will find triumph or tragedy, or whether that door leads to another hallway with more decisions to be made.
I’ve traveled many hallways and I’ve opened many doors, but I’ve also been afraid to pass through others because they opened to opportunities outside my comfort zone or in a direction that involved risks my false sense of security.
The most satisfying portals have been those that challenged my fears and forced me to push beyond what I felt I could accomplish. In many cases, peace and empowerment were on the other side of those doors.
Through others, I have felt small and powerless, but those are instances where I learned to allow myself to feel that way, to lose ground just a little bit so I could make a running leap forward to the next door.
I once wrote a scene in a novel that depicted the moments between a final breath in this world and the initial moments in the next. That transformation involved a hallway of light with loved ones standing on either side to welcome the new soul.
Between the entrance that is the birth canal, and the afterlife with only one exit, our lives travel a hallway of missed and taken opportunities requiring us to actively open a door and explore. Experience and wisdom guide us to close doors to dangerous or toxic paths, but also to enter across the thresholds of new experiences. Courage is required to do both.
If walking down that hallway—the journey that had no positive outcome and no alternate door to walk through—taught me anything, it has been how extremely short life is.
I now see all those doorways in the hallway of my life and pray for wisdom and courage to continue passing through those that force me to stretch myself to reap all that I can from this life—all the love, the joy, the peace, the opportunities crossing my path—and to risk looking stupid or failing, because I just may not.
When I get to the end of the hallway and say goodbye to this world, I want to know I wasn’t afraid to try.
(Lyrics: Say Something by A Great Big World)