Although I have
no right to, I get surly with my doctors, short-tempered with the people whose
job it is to keep me comfortable.† I
rail against a diagnosis I donít want to hear:†
I refuse to accept it, knowing that my refusal wonít change a thing,
that my opinion in this context counts for nothing.†† I think, childishly, that if I donít believe it, it wonít come
true, as if the truth of this thing were predicated on my belief in it.
I pull the
curtains closed to create a small enclave around my hospital bed and, as
quietly as I can, I cry into my pillow. I know that I donít have much time to
do this:† the nurses come around every 2
hours to give my shots of dilaudid and to change my IV bags.† I have to be brief and I have to be
discreet.† I donít want to attract any
attention for this:† I donít want their
concern and I donít want to answer their questions.† I allow myself ten minutes for this - only ten - and after itís
over, I canít say what I was crying for.
I donít sleep
much in here.† Most nights, I sit out in
front of the hospital where itís cold, but at least Iím out in the air.† I lug my IV pole with me and sit out on the
benches outside in the dark for ages, and everything seems more vivid - the
stars are brighter and more defined, the air is sharper, the smell of the dying
leaves is dusty and distinct.† I donít
remember noticing that before and I think that this is the will to live but
maybe itís just the narcotics.† Itís
freezing out and Iím only wearing pyjamas but my robe is warm and anyway, it feels
good to be cold, to know that I can still feel something.† I look at the stars and try not to think
about what might be coming next.† I
think again about someone I love and I worry about him for a while.† For the first time in years, I pray.† When the pain overtakes me, and it does,
often, I have to steel myself to get up and go inside but first I sit and say
the same thing, mindlessly, over and over again "Please, please make it
stop."† Is this praying?† Iím not sure.† If it is, I donít know who Iím talking to.
I am not
seizing, which is a good thing.††
"Please God", I remember saying, "I can take anything except the
seizures."† But now I am doubled over
and breathless and I have become nothing more than pain and once again I find
myself saying "Please, please make it stop."
But God says
"Thatís all you get."
I try to be
content with it.
I am not
brave.† I want this to stop.
Christine comes to see me, although I try to keep her away. I donít want
anybody to see me like this.† I see the
shock on her face so plainly, I see that by the time she gets into the elevator
to leave, she is already crying.
I talk to my ex
husband briefly, and ask him if he might come down to see me.† Please, I ask him. Please.† But what I really mean is "I want someone to
hold me."† He says he cannot get
away.† What he really means is "Youíre
not my problem anymore."
I marvel at how
strong the urge to stay alive is, even though that life is not one anybody
would choose if they were given a choice.
me most is that I canít laugh anymore.†
I feel hollow and this scares me so I blame it on the drugs.
I have perfected
the art of crying silently and I can lie in my bed in the dark and weep without
a sound, the tears falling from the corners of my eyes until my ears are
flooded and my throat is burning.
This time is
best spent in accounting, I think and although I try to keep myself from it, I
cannot help but grieve for the love that I have squandered and for the hurts I
have caused and likely now will never be able to remedy.
Keeping my mind
blank is an exhausting exercise but itís important I do it lest I fall apart
completely.† I am careful not to show my
fear to anyone though how they can fail to see it is beyond me.
I am not brave
but I am adept at pretending I am.
I think about
years past all the hurt and heartache some of them held for me.† My mind drifts again to past mistakes and regrets.†
I think about the resolutions vaguely made that one day I would put
things right, that I would atone for the wrongs I caused and remembered that I
made that vow when I assumed I would have nothing but time. When I ignored the
promptings of my conscience because it was too hard or it would take something
away from me that I didnít want to be parted from, even though
everything was screaming at me that indulging myself was wrong and that I would
pay dearly for it. Perhaps I lacked courage or my selfishness outweighed it,
but there were many opportunities to step away and do the right thing and I
recall how I turned my face towards the path of least resistance because it
accorded with my whims.† And as I sit
outside in the frigid November air alone with my regrets, I wish that I had one
more chance - I swear I would use it wisely, I promise that I would listen to
the promptings of my conscience.† I
throw this up to the sky and wait for an answer.
But God says
I get angry and
feel cheated.† I convince myself that I
have great things ahead of me, that it isnít fair and I donít deserve
this.† But the truth is, and I know it
deep down, that if there were greatness in me, it would have become evident
before now, and all I have is just a small disregarded life that probably not
too many people are going to miss.
I wonder if I
will be mourned and by whom and can come up with only a handful of people - and
as soon as that thought swirls into my brain, I have to clamp it down because
there is nothing to be gained by it.† I
want to hold on to someone who loves me and realize that I canít come up with a
single name and that there is nobody here for me and nobodyís coming.† This is my own fault, all my own doing - I
have kept myself apart for years and I cannot claim surprise that I find myself
And God says "I
told you so."
If there are
phases of grief I have jumbled them, for I bargain, deny, rage and am resigned
all in the space of an hour. But acceptance is still beyond me.† I am promising to change, to take chances,
to do no harm.† I have been face to face
with my own mortality before, but never to this extent and I am
frightened.† If only, I pray, if only I
am reprieved, I will change.† I will not
squander love, I will conform to my highest ideals.† I will treasure every day and cultivate the love of those who
care for me.
And God says
"Will you really?"
I will be sent
home soon: there is nothing that they can do for me now.† A nurse will come by and check on me and I
will see the doctor daily.† I would
rather be at home, though I hate this dependency.† I convince myself that this is a good sign, that going home is
hopeful - that surely they would not send me home if I werenít on the road to
recovery.† I believe this even though
the doctors do not speak in terms of cure, but only talk about "keeping me
comfortable".† Still, I stubbornly cling
to the idea that I am going home to get better, that after a few weeks or a few
months, I will be as good as new.
And God says
"But what if youíre wrong?"
I wonder if it
is better to just acquiesce and let go or to keep on struggling.† Itís hard to say and the narcotics make
I am tired and
scared.† I am not brave.
Maybe if I sleep
for a bit, things will become clearer.†
Maybe Iíll be better in a week or so, perhaps the doctor will have good
news for me when I see him next.
And God says