Tragedy and Triumph, Love and Loss.
Tragedy and Triumph. Love and Loss. I’ve seen both this week. Polar opposites of life itself. I haven’t cried this hard or cheered this loudly in a very long time. Awestruck. That’s what I am. People amaze me. My kids amaze me. And during a time that most would like to forget, I’m making it a point to remember.
First, hurrying into the hospital that day, I tripped over a 2 x 6 that someone left along the edge of the parking lot. Such creeps! It’s a hospital! Couldn’t they find someplace else to dump their trash?
Then, later during the week it was raining, and the parking lot was full. I walked across the lawn and came upon deep tire ruts in the mud along the edge of the parking lot. Someone had parked along the edge of the lot rather than out on the street. Probably in a hurry to get in, and when they came out later, their car had sunken hopelessly into the mud. But, what luck. Someone who had evidently been through this before was nice enough to have left a nice long 2 x 6 right there along the edge of the pavement for them to place under their tire. They’d found it and used it to back out of the rut. It was still stuck in the mud. I smiled realizing that I had judged someone too quickly, and I was happy to be wrong.
2. The hand-written love letters from her fiancé who laid unconscious and fighting for life. Unabashedly raw demonstrations of private thoughts. Clearly stated, permanent mementos of an absolute adoration and acceptance of my daughter, just as she is. Tiny little packages of pure love. What a beautiful gift to have left behind. I used to write those for my love too, but it’d been years. Too many years.
3. Sisterhood at its finest. My babies. My girls. The same girls who nearly tore each other’s hair out just a few years ago. This week was pure selfless acts of kindness. I’m completely humbled by each one of them.
4. Bravery and Courage. My brain is unable to comprehend the horror of what she woke up to. Yet she remained calm. I ask myself if I could do what she did. Could I do mouth to mouth on a person who is already ashen gray with death? Who has vomit in their mouth? Could I love that strongly? I am in absolute awe of Steph. She is my hero.
5. Some of the most heart-warming lessons came from the fiance’s family. Open. Giving. Loving. There was always a room full. Very young to very old. Men, women and children. And they always arrived at the hospital with a lot of bustle and carrying care packages for ALL who were there–whether they had met you previously or not. Lasagna. Soup. Pizza. Coffee. Money. Blankets. Sweaters. You name it. Oh and real dishes because no self-respecting Italian family would have you eat Italian soup out of paper cups. Yeah. They brought dishes.
There was no sense of grudgingly-done, duty-driven responsibility to their actions. There was no sense of inconvenience. There was just pure love. And when they left, they hugged and kissed everyone in the room and THANKED each person for being there.
They told me I was beautiful for sitting with them during their difficult time. Me. I couldn’t help thinking that one of the reasons I was still sitting there was because I couldn’t stop watching and listening to them. They amazed me. I wanted to be part of that family. I wanted to be part of that bond that they have with each other. I found myself selfishly thinking that if Steph’s fiancé got well, I’d see them again at the wedding and at family events. I was happy to know that I would see them again…and that they’d recognize me and hug me again, and that I would actually be family.
6. Bleeps, blips, numbers, and other indicators. Ohh how those test results all began to blur. The numbers on the life support machine became constant indicators of how well or not well that poor,wracked body was doing. I began to curse them. Why? Why do we have to have things in our face like that? Damn you technology!
Then, as we sat staring into empty space, my middle daughter Tammy casually handed a picture to me. It was from an ultrasound. I knew immediately that a new life was coming into our family. I felt a different kind of tear fall down my cheek, and I was so grateful for such a clear and palpable piece of evidence of that life that she carries with her now. Technology is amazing.
7. Then there is my husband Andy. Now I watch him fall asleep each night, and I see that big strong man as somehow just a little bit vulnerable. I try to remind myself that it could be the last time I see him sleeping. I had forgotten how much I would miss him if he left us. So now I tell him more often. And I write him love letters….like I used to… And I watch him breathe and thank God for that breath–even when it comes out as a loud snore–the same loud snore that used to irritate me.
So many lessons learned. And now, as I head off shopping for funeral clothes with Steph. I have a feeling that even this will bring forth its own set of unique memories. And even when they arise out of grief, something good will be among them because that’s the way life works. There can be no polar end without it’s equal and opposite end. They’re always there in equal proportions. Sometimes you just have to search for them.
Take care everyone. Hug your family. Appreciate them. Love them like today is their last day.
(Originally written in 2006) –Holly Connors