We live right next to one of the largest hospitals in Lebanon, The American University Hospital. Leaving our building, we basically always have to walk through the stream of patients on their way to or from the hospital: a lot of pregnant women or families carrying newborns, people with charts in their hands, smiles on their faces or tears running down their cheeks. Sometimes we see a car coming down the hill at an incredible speed, honking, plowing through traffic with a bleeding or otherwise hurt, sometimes unconscious, person in the passenger seat. Late at night I’ve seen young people, obviously under the influence of drugs, carry a friend to the ER.
There’s a children’s Cancer Clinic in the back of the hospital, which means that sometimes we see young children at our local grocery store or in the street, carried by their mothers or fathers, bold from radiation, exhausted, sad, tired, and the parents’ faces bare witness of hours of suffering and desperation. The first time we saw a child like that I had to spend a long time explaining to the boys. “Why is that girl bold? What happened to that girl? Why does she look so sad? Why is her father crying while carrying her? What is going to happen to her? Why do kids get cancer?”
To remind us that a hospital isn’t always able to make everyone feel better, from our balcony we have a view of an alley we’ve named “Hearse Alley” because, well, we've deducted that’s where they pick up the coffins. Almost every day we see a hearse or several pick up coffins being carried out of the hospital. The first time we noticed, incidentally, was on Halloween and the boys insisted it was a Halloween stunt. Since then however, we’ve learned otherwise.
Living next to a hospital is in a way comforting, but you're also reminded every day of the fact that we are - bluntly put - mortal.