A year can be a silly thing. I’m not sure why I feel the need to celebrate its passing. I don’t often. I’m not particularly crazy about my birthday. New Year’s Eve is my least favorite holiday. I almost never notice the odometer flipping over in my car. I’m not sure why it makes such a big difference to mark a particular spot on the earth’s orbit as any better than any other.
But sometimes logic needs to take a back seat to sentimentality, and when it does, we make something special of the way the sun looks and the wind blows and the temperature shifts. Some days are special because of the thing that happened once and didn’t happen again. Some days are worth celebrating because they aren’t the day they were a year ago.
Last year about this time I was fighting for my life. Actually, not true - last year about this time several other people were fighting for my life, some with medicine, some with prayer. I was breathing shallowly on a respirator while a Christmas tree of antibiotics and other sundry drugs were pumped into the nearly lifeless shell that a few days later I was able to reclaim as my body.
And this past Saturday, to commemorate the fight that others so selflessly took up as their own when I could not, I strolled into the hospital to see if anyone I recognized was around.
I didn’t take flowers. No chocolates or cupcakes or thoughtfully composed notes. I didn’t wear a celebratory hat. No kazoos or trumpets or noise makers of any kind. Believe me, I would have gladly taken any of those things (except the trumpets); I wished for all of that and more. But that wasn’t the purpose of the visit; those would have been things to hide behind.
As great fortune would have it, Bethany, Danielle, and Kaitlin were in the ICU and Venus was in the wing where I recovered after I could stand. Just to refresh, so there’s no need to read the documentary of last year’s event in all its ten thousand word glory, Bethany spent two days caring for me on the ventilator, Danielle assembled the team of teams of doctors that ultimately saved my life, and Kaitlin held my hand through the worst pain I’ve ever endured. Venus, was my nurse a few times during my recovery. We talked then about puzzles her son might enjoy, and he has apparently become quite proficient with the Rubik’s cube since then.
It was not fun, I’m embarrassed to admit. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I hoped I would. In fact, I didn’t enjoy it at all. I smiled and hugged and joked, but that was definitely not a place I wanted to be.
So why go back at all? I’ve already said my thank-yous. There’s only so thankful anyone cares for you to be. Thank you the first time is sweet, the second time is a bit annoying. So why go back?
I’ve been asking myself that question for a while. I didn’t want to go back. Why did it seem so important to celebrate an anniversary when I don’t care for celebrating or anniversaries? Why in the world would I throw a part of my life back into focus when I would rather move on?
I don’t remember Danielle from when I first got to the ICU, but she’s one of my first memories waking up. “Do you remember me?” That’s an interesting question, isn’t it? It implies something - she remembered me. Now, clearly she didn’t have to struggle much to remember the last patient she had had just a few days before. But still, that’s an interesting question. It carries with it the soft sweet smell of hope, of connection.
I remembered Blaire in wisps of memories from before, but she came by after I woke up as well. She didn’t have to, but she did, just to check up on me. I remember she tied her shoe while she talked to me. She didn’t stay long; I didn’t even have her whole focus. Staying long isn’t the point. She came by.
You see, what made these people special, what made me feel special, wasn’t how well they did their jobs. I know what should be most important is that they played their part in saving my life, but it’s just not. What still to this day makes me smile every time I remember that week is that people I barely know and will never know, people who aren’t friends or coworkers or people who need or want anything from me, those people held on to me.
Not tightly, and not for very long. But for that tiny insignificant moment, those gentle tugs were anchors pulling me back to life and love and light and the joy of living and loving and lighting. Ok, so lighting doesn’t work that well here, but still, you get the picture. They held on.
So now, I hold on to them. Not tightly, and not for very long. It’s been almost a year since I’ve seen any of them. I didn’t take them candy or coffee or chocolate or flowers-that-start-with-c. Chrysanthemums? Seriously, is that how you spell it? Are those even gift flowers? Whatever, look, the point is, it’s not about being thankful or polite or trying to turn it into something it’s not. It’s about holding on, just a little bit, just enough.
Kaitlin held my hand when I needed it most. I’ve never forgotten that; I hope that I never will. She’s an incredible woman. She has a passion for what she does and the people she does it for. She lights up a room. When she smiles, it’s somehow even brighter. But the thing about her that I pray I will never forget is her hand holding mine.
When someone holds on to you, even lightly, even for a moment, it’s impossible to deny, at least for that second, that you’re a Real Good Thing. So yeah, I’ll go back to that hospital. I’ll go even if I don’t want to, even if I don’t see anyone I recognize. I’ll go because I might see someone I know, and they deserve to be held on to, just a tiny bit, for just a little while.
It’s why I bothered to write this down. I want to hold on to you, just a tiny bit, for just a little while.
Because you, my friend-in-passing, my momentary acquaintance, are a Real Good Thing.
Posted with : Bare with Me