continued from this post…
Friends and family came to visit me. Gloved and gowned they would file in and stand next to me. There were people I hadn’t seen in years, people I worked with, and people that knew and loved me.
I would find myself saying, “Its okay” a lot. I’m not sure who I was trying to convince.
For some of my visitors it was awkward, but heartfelt. They wanted to be there, but didn’t know what to say. Some would pull up a chair. They were there for the long haul. Others were silent as we watched TV together, content to simply be. Some stayed away. I suspect it was too much for them. I know it was too much for me.
A high school friend came to see me. I hadn’t seen him since he graduated the year before I did. He stood by my bed and cried. He didn’t know I needed his tears, but I did. Everybody came in strong, breath sucked in. To have someone let their emotions go unchecked relieved me. This was bad. Please, someone. Tell me this is bad.
I had people that cared and wanted to be there for me. I had love without condition. No one could have more support than I did, but there were days I felt I was on display. I was at the mercy of my visitors. They could control my doorway and I couldn’t. My face would ache with the effort of politeness and I tired easily. For those days when I couldn’t bear to see anyone I faked sleep. I was eight years old again and my parents were poking their head into my bedroom to make sure I was asleep. This time it was nurses who gently pushed the door open and whispered, “Heidi?” I lay still and shut my eyes.
As the nurses got to know me and I them I stopped faking and tried the truth instead. They would crack the door open and say, “Heidi, there are people here to see you.”
I asked, “What are their names?”
“I don’t know.”
I volleyed back, “Well, what do they look like?”
The nurse described them.
“No. Not today. Tell them I’m sleeping.” And they would. God, I loved my nurses.
It’s odd – the things that stick out. With all of the drugs pumping through me my mind was dulled considerably and there are things people tell me today about my time in the hospital that I can’t recall. But, there is a lot I do remember – some things that may seem arbitrary and insignificant. Scraps of memories. My brain races through the rabbit holes and clings to whatever it can.
I’ll never forget that an old friend of mine baked me a pie. A pie! I didn’t know he could bake. In a place where there was little delight, this delighted me.
Flowers weren’t allowed, so teddy bears were brought. Cards were sent and tacked on to the wall. Photographs of me that had been taken recently were among the well wishes. I stared hard at those photos. I stared at my feet, my skin so smooth, my light tan lines. I was, am her. Who am I now? I’m not familiar with the girl in the bed. If it’s the shell that’s been broken, the temple that’s ruined, could the girl underneath still exist? Would I remain intact or when you peeled back the body would you find the insides just as damaged? My body as I knew it died that day. Did I die that day too?
I didn’t know whether to take her off the wall or accept that she was still here with me. I didn’t know where either of us fit.
I wanted to shout to anyone that came through the door, “Take her down! She doesn’t belong here.”
But, I never did.
At the altar of teddy bears and cards I left her photos honoring both of us.