visitors, teddy bears, and photographs / alternatively titled: I can’t come up with a title for this post

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.

17 thoughts on “visitors, teddy bears, and photographs / alternatively titled: I can’t come up with a title for this post

  1. bernthis

    the first thing i thought was how seeing yourself would affect you. I have changed so much on the inside and yet if you new my circumstances it seems like my whole life has been inert for nearly five years. Yes, the shell was broken but the insides did remain intact.

    xoxo

  2. Anna See

    what an image— the altar of teddy bears and cards. thanks for continuing to share your story, heidi.

  3. Linda Sue

    Heidi, I am struck by the crying visitor validating your feelings "this is really bad"…Thankful for the honesty. Being polite to visitors must have been tiring, I can't even do that when I am well! So eager to read your experience- you write incredibly well.
    LOVE love!

  4. Christy

    That crying visitor was a godsend, wasn't he? And the pie baker? Thank god for the little things. And thank you for continuing to put paper to pen, so to speak. Hope you had a wonderful holiday Heidi!

  5. Intense Guy

    I can't imagine how torn you must of felt – to want to see someone – anyone – and not wanting to see anyone – no one at all.

    I can only get this foretaste of how happy you were to finally "get out of there".

  6. Cookie

    Ugh… what a horrible time. That is good that you had so many visitors and support. I can only imagine that besides all of your physical trauma you must have suffered emotionally too.

  7. kendalee

    Again, the thing that you capture so well for me Heidi, is the emotion of this… the ambivalence. So powerful.

    Happy, happy 2010 to you- may it be your very best yet and your writing continue to give you pleasure and an outlet for your creativity! I am so looking forward to seeing how the year and your story unfold… K xx

  8. Lynne

    Hi Heidi,
    Happy new year to you. Looks as though I've got some catching up to do here.
    Have a great year!

  9. Heidi

    bernthis, this was a hard thing to reconcile…the old me and the 'new' me. as i keep writing i'll address that further. i think i did on some post somewhere a whiiile back. thank you for what you shared here. i sure like you.

    anna see, thank you!

    linda sue, yes! it was tiring…and wonderful at the same time. i know how lucky i am having had all of that support…ridiculously fortunate. you used just the right word – validation. i did need that and my friend that day gave it to me.

    christy, the little things, absolutely. he was a godsend and so was that pie (and the person who made it :)). i just thought it was the funniest and most incredible thing – to have someone bake me a pie!

    intense guy, you summed that up well. i was asked during my stay, towards the end, if i wanted a roommate and i always refused. nobody could understand it thinking i must be so lonely. lonely, maybe. but i didn't want more company as i had so much of it and as tired as i got i was also really grateful. so, torn, definitely.

    cookie, it certainly took its toll.

    kendalee, thank you! back at you! i look forward to your journey as well.

    lynne, thank you!

  10. curious girl (lisa)

    heidi, you continue to move me with your story. it's just so powerful. I'm wondering how you are fairing with the sharing of it? I hope it is serving you well as storytelling often does.

  11. Kate Coveny Hood

    I am terrible at knowing what to say. I write great letters – but in person or on the phone I'm at a loss. I think I would have just watched TV with you. But I'll remember that about the pie.

    Exactly what do you do with all of that stuff when you leave the hospital? Tell them to throw it away? Give the teddies to sick kids? Put it all in a box? It sounds like it took on a life of its own. It would almost be like figuring out what to do with an actual person.

  12. sugarlens

    Despite of everything you went through and regardless whether or not they were always welcome, you are blessed to have so many caring friends and family.

    Happy New Year, Heidi!

  13. Heidi

    lisa, thank you for asking. it means a lot to me. it's going well – almost surprisingly well. i keep thinking this is going to get to me, but so far i'm alright. i think you're right – it does serve well to story tell.

    kate, i laughed at this. not the first part, but the second. yeah. there were A LOT of teddy bears. i have donated almost all of them. i found out recently my cousin has one and i can't remember giving it to her, but i did?

    you know, it's not really about saying the right thing as much as the being there that matters. i think just that people showed up meant the world to me. and bringing food? you can never go wrong with offering up food.

    sugarlens, yes. you are absolutely right. i'm wondering if i'm painting the wrong picture here… i did get very tired often, but to have that many people care enough to visit was, like you said, a blessing.

    Happy new Year to you!!

  14. Isabella Snow

    Happy New Year to you, too! Sorry I haven't popped by sooner! Have caught up on the posts and I really do think you need to publish this — there's so much in your voice that people could benefit from. It's not just what's happened to you, it's who you've become since then; it's amazing. I don't know if you're familiar with Michael Newton's books, but I would recommend you have a look at his first one if you have time. Hugs!

  15. dawn

    your statement "my body died, did i die that day too?"….strikes a chord with me…
    if my mother dies, am i still a daughter?
    if my husband dies, am i still a wife?

    the questions of loss….so profound and tender.
    beautiful. beautiful you. xo

  16. Heidi

    loraleigh, you KNOW i love you too.

    isabella, i will go check him out. and thanks. that means a lot coming from you. 🙂

    dawn, thank you, sweets. i know i already said this over at your blog, but i loved what you said here and that strikes a chord with me too.

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