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The human face is a wonderful thing. I sometimes think of it, or see it, as a kind of country, or rather, the map of a country. Sometimes it indicates beauty and peace, at other times terror and pain, with endless refinements and variations between.

I am sitting on the side of his bed in a private ward. We are facing each other, he in a chair, his legs supported on a footstool. I wait for him to conquer a sentence that refuses to be completed, a word that refuses to come.  As he struggles, the pain and frustration can be seen in his eyes. 

He is among the people I suspect I shall always remember. In medical terms he has been through a great deal. In terms of his interior life, he possesses resources that are deep and immense. Without them the medical resources would long have been of little avail. 

As I sit here, I am suddenly aware that immediately beside him is his own photograph. He gazes out from it, handsome and smiling in the officer's uniform of a now long-ago war. The face has all the smoothness and firmness and line of youth. Beside it he now sits. The living face, the face I now see, is ravaged by a hard-fought struggle for life more magnificent than any military battle. It is a life lived with courage and tenacity and even moments of laughter over the last decade. It is a life that will continue to look out of those eyes as he struggles to gain strength and coherence.

Two faces, one handsome and untested, the other lined and ravaged but so totally magnificent.



iStock 925657186 Credit: master 1305