By: Leo Callahan
What if you could choose your next life? 87-year-old Rose has been faced with that question as she lies in her hospital bed. After a nasty bout of pneumonia combined with her already old age, she wasn’t expected to live for more than a few days. It’s standard procedure in hospitals and nursing homes all over the world to warn their patient of their final days and allow them to make their choices. Patients are giving as much time as they have to think it through, are shown pamphlets, and given ideas for their potential next shot at life. Once they’ve made their decision, they fill out some paperwork and the staff sends it over to the Committee for Reincarnation, who finalizes it, leaving the said patient to pass on peacefully and comfortably. Rose has had more time to think about it than most since she wasn’t even expected to live in the first days after her hospitalization. She had many ailments of the lung that made her more susceptible to colds in the first place, so getting caught in the rain at the beginning of autumn was practically a death sentence. For the past few weeks, all she’s known is this hospital room that overlooks the river.
Pulling her eyes away from the window, she flips through the pamphlets and papers that have accumulated on her bedside table over the past few weeks. She could become a newborn in a wealthy English family, expecting couples usually to put out advertisements in case anyone is interested in becoming their future child, or she could become a spoiled little housecat… Or a tree, or a flower, or something completely different if she so chose. Of course, there’s always the option to not be reincarnated, you could just pass on to whatever else is out there, but you could imagine that isn’t a very popular option. It’s stressful being faced with so many options when you have such little time left.
“Good morning, Rose,” Her nurse greets. The nurse’s name is Mary, and Rose has gotten to know her quite well in these last few weeks. Mary fiddles around with all the machinery, replacing her oxygen tank and changing the filter on some other thing Rose did not understand.
“Ah, good morning Mary…” She croaks, sitting up straight while Mary rearranges her pillows.
“Mornin’!” She smiles. “Have ya’ made a decision yet…?” She asks casually.
“Mm… I’m not too sure yet…” Rose answers quietly, folding her hands together. Mary nods while scribbling something down on her chart, maybe an update on Rose’s vitals or something like that.
“To me, you always seemed like the type to go with an animal,” She says. “I mean, you’ve had a long and fulfilling life, so why not take a couple decades off as someone’s fat cat?” She laughs.
Truth be told, she really wants to be an animal next, Mary was totally right. “Oh, I don’t know what my family would think of it,” She admits. “I’m sure they’d want me back in human form…”
“Not to be a Debby downer, but even if you were reincarnated as another person, they wouldn’t be able to talk to you for years since you’d have to grow up, and who knows how long it’d take to even find you?” Mary explains. “Reincarnation isn’t linear, you could always end up far into the future too. Anyway, sorry for rambling.” Mary concludes sheepishly. “But hey, it’s your life! Go with what makes you happy- or what will make you happy.”
All her life, Rose had dreamed of a simple life, especially the life of a small and well loved animal. She craved the feeling of sleeping soundly in a sun beam and rolling around on the warm concrete because no human could ever experience that the way cats do. It dawns on her that she’s been handed the opportunity to experience what she’s been chasing her whole life. “Mary,” She calls out softly, right as she’s about to leave the room. “I think I’ve made my decision.” She beams.
“I knew you’d go with a cat,” Mary says while she helps fill out the paperwork. “So, any specific breed?” She asks.
“I think… A Persian?” Rose decides. She’d always held a soft spot for long-haired cats…
“Alrighty! Any specific location?” Mary writes down her previous options.
“I’m not in the position to be picky now, are I?” Rose jokes. “Maybe somewhere in Europe, though anywhere would be fine…” Rose yawns, pulling the sheets closer to her.
Mary twirls around in her chair, clicking her pen. “Okie-dokie, I’ll finish up the technical stuff and send this over tonight! Have a good nap!” She waves as she leaves the room.
The next few days were a bit of a blur, she remembers her children and grandchildren coming to say goodbye, and she remembers another nurse explaining her choice to the family. As she died, she remembers nothing but an atmosphere of love and care and she went off surrounded by her beloved family.
And soon, all she remembers is being blind and small and safe in the comfort of her mother and siblings, while someone exclaims “Mom! The cat gave birth!” and runs off to find an adult.
Art Piece by Dani Castro