I’ll call her Tina.  Tina was once a regular fixture of our emergency department.

Tina was found dead at home.  She was in her 40’s.  Tina loved drugs.  She would come to us at all hours in hopes of receiving a prescription for a narcotic.  They were, it seems, her life.

Tina injured herself for drugs.  She asked others to obtain them for her.  Her boyfriends stole drugs for her.

Tina’s children were removed from her, because of drugs.  Tina was, in every sense, addicted to pain medicine.

What else she used, I don’t recall.  Doubtless, she was a chemical lab on legs.  I suspect she had tried almost everything she could find on the streets, as well as whatever she managed get from friends, family and assorted physicians.

I remember Tina.  I looked at her face now and then and thought, ‘she could be beautiful!’  I knew someone who went to high school with her, and he confirmed my suspicion.  That beneath smudged, over-used eye-shadow and rough, scarred skin, beneath used up veins and broken bones, was a woman who would have made us stop to look twice, in another time or place, another life.

Somewhere along the line, she became a lost soul. Somewhere, sometime, she gave up hope.  She surrendered what the rest of us dream of; home, joy, prosperity, health, family.  She surrendered it for the feeling that certain molecules elicited in her brain.

She surrendered the children she bore, she surrendered her body, her mind, her life, all for the rush.  Or maybe all for the anesthesia from some pain we never quite understood.

See, if anyone needs to know what the word ‘broken’ means, Tina was its definition.  She was broken incarnate.

This old world is broken, and so are we.  Tina was just a few degrees further off course than the rest of us…but only a few, so I can’t judge her too harshly.

May God receive her as a broken child.

I don’t know what Tina believed.  I know that God is  just and merciful.  Maybe, somewhere beneath the mess of her body and mind, behind the desperate addiction to drugs, her soul cried out to him for help.  Maybe, in the worst cases, that’s all it takes.  The desire of a child; the desire to be rescued.

I hope that I see her, on that day, that great and terrible day, standing at the side of Jesus.  I hope that when I say ‘Hi Tina, it’s me, Doctor Leap!’ That she fixes me with a sweet smile, and turns her head a little to the side, her brows wrinkled over clear, questioning eyes.  I hope that Jesus puts his hands gently over her ears and whispers to me, ‘She can’t remember any of that…I wiped it all away and she’s brand new!’  Maybe I won’t remember any of it either.

Tina is survived by children who never really knew her, by family who lost her too soon, and by a host of people who helped her fall from grace.

May God have mercy on all of them.

We won’t miss her as she was; but the world is a little less for the loss of what she was meant to be.  The devil will pay for that one when his time comes round.


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