The essence of life

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Christmas Day.

Hospital room 251 was sparsely filled with people of varying size and age. Their unvarying expressions of boredom and respectfully suppressed impatience were half focused on the man lying on the hospital bed in the center of the room.

Some knew him as “Grandfather.” Others “Dad” or “Great-grandpa.” But today, they all knew him as “the dying relative.”

It was this title, and this title alone that pulled the occupants of room 251 away from their busy lives and into the hospital. Begrudging respect, indifference — these were the emotions that filled the room. Over the monotonous beep of the man’s heart monitor, his voice began to croak. Everyone turned in his direction and listened halfheartedly, a twinge of pity mixed with their expressions of impatience.

“I,” he began, “have lived a full and happy life. I look back on it… and feel no regrets.”
The motionless crowd looked on with disinterest.
 
“I remember my childhood well,” he continued. “Full of fond memories…” He looked around somewhat frantically, as if trying to remember some “fond memories.”
“I held a high score on multiple video games!” he began suddenly. “I played them for countless hours by myself… What good times! Really made me who I am today…” he trailed off.
 
“And then there was my middle-age years… Boy, were those great!” he exclaimed. “I sure made a whole lot of money! You have no idea how much I cherish all those long hours I spent at the office.” he said enthusiastically.
 
Then he added absentmindedly, “I guess I had a few kids around then too…”
“Oh, but don’t forget about my retirement years! After my wife left, I could do whatever I wanted!” he said with a hearty chuckle. “I remember every football game I watched alone… Those sure were good times. That right there is what life is all about…”
 
“No regrets,” he said with a smile.
“No regrets…”
 
As his words trailed off, so did the beeping of his heart monitor.
The room of confused and annoyed family members exchanged glances of relief at the end of his speech. Without any exchange of words, they quickly shuffled out of room 251 and back to what was truly important — their busy lives.
 
The man’s son rushed out of the hospital in disbelief. “Why did that have to take so long? Doesn’t he know it’s game day?!” Thankfully, he made it home in time to catch most of the game.
 
The man’s granddaughter briskly walked out the door of the hospital and made a beeline for her car. “Good thing this happened on a weekend. I didn’t have to use any vacation days,” she thought to herself as she headed to work to put in some overtime.
 
The man’s great-grandson sat impatiently in the backseat of his parents’ car as they headed home from the hospital. Upon arriving, he headed straight for his room. “That sure was boring,” he mused as he turned on his PlayStation for some much-needed entertainment.
 
Happy Holidays. Happy Holidays indeed.
 
Meaningless entertainment, selfishness, greed.
Herein lies the essence of life.

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