I am the keeper of the farm. I have been the keeper for almost ten years. Every day I come to work and tend to my farm. It is quiet and peaceful, save the distant, muffled beep of machinery.
My farm consists of five vegetables, all in different states of metamorphosis. Some of my vegetables have been here for many years. Some are recent arrivals. All of them have stories.
In bed #1, is a man who has been assigned the name “John Doe.” He was what the hospital referred to as a frequent flyer. He was often found under bridges, in dumpsters or under random cars, seeking shelter from the blistering heat of summer or the bitter cold of winter. He was found behind a convenience store one day, with a needle still sticking out of his arm. Although he was successfully revived, he suffered permanent brain damage. He is no longer homeless, for he now rests on the farm. He will continue to rest here until he dies or funds for the indigent are no longer available.
In bed #2, lies a young woman who had a massive stroke during childbirth. She has rested here for three years. Her husband sometimes brings her little girl to visit. He refuses to remove life-sustaining treatment, hoping that one day she will wake up and come home. When I know that they are coming, I polish her fingernails and apply some make-up. I often sit with her and tell made-up stories about her little girl. I too, hope that one day she will wake up and go home.
In bed #3, lies a man who fell into a coma for an inexplicable reason. His family lives in another country and cannot visit. They will not give permission to have his breathing tube removed, so I listen to the perfect cadence of the ventilator, which forces his chest to rise and fall. I play soft music for him while he sleeps. In my mind, he is a Beethoven man and I think he particularly likes the Fifth Symphony.
In bed #4, lies a firefighter. While trying to save a victim from a burning building, he fell through the floor. He would otherwise be called a medical miracle as not one bone in his body was broken. He just lost consciousness and never opened his eyes again. He has been asleep for seven years. He was married and had a son. His wife was granted a divorce three years ago, remarried and is pregnant with her second child. She nor her son have ever visited. I sometimes burn a small piece of paper so that he can smell the smoke, hoping he might wake up.
Bed #5 holds a woman who has been here the longest. She was the victim of a brutal assault when she was 24. After ten years, her family has decided to withdraw treatment and disconnect all machinery but they have chosen not to be present, so I will be the one who watches as she takes her last breath. I will be the one who holds her hand as she passes from this life to the next. I will be the one who tells her that it is okay to leave.
I have never told anybody this but I was once a volunteer keeper of a farm. All hospitals have them. They are usually housed deep within the bowels of the building, far away from view. These people, although remembered by some, are forgotten by most…save the keepers.
All of the people in this post were based on my brief experience with being “the keeper of the farm.”