One of those things that bring you to grips with life in general is hanging out in a hospital for any reason. It always amazes me how many feelings rush in when you are in a place where life makes an entrance and death a sometimes too hasty departure.
My niece in law got on the elevator with me one evening and almost lost her breath, as her face became ashen I asked her if she was okay. Her reply was quiet and tense when she said that being in the hospital reminded her of the time her dearest friend lost her baby. How the sights and smells and sounds and even the level of light in the building made all of that horrible time come crashing in on her.
Gut reactions indeed. Hospitals for almost all of us bring back that primal place when we enter the zone where s*&t happens.
How are we able to face life and death, sickness and sorrow---- those things that are an inevitable part of our lives that we would sooner ignore than deal with, how can we be comfortable with that which makes our souls cry? When hope meets fear, when we are forced to entertain the shadows that dance in those dim places in our hearts we find perhaps a bit more about what we are made out of. When we find joy in this place of birth and death our response is easier and more in tune with the life we would choose to live if we only had the chance to choose.
Our gut check becomes the place where we look in fear to see if we have grown as individuals, if our darkest nights and mornings of awe have gone to a place of light and peace. We stand and fearfully look inward to ascertain if we are living as a blessing or a curse.
We all have our hospital stories, those ragamuffin tales wound up with our own band-aids and held together with whatever bits of courage we need to re-tell them, to make us who we are. My stories are of being there to watch a parent die. To this day when I am in my hometown of Orlando Florida and I drive by the hospital where my Dad died, I see him standing at the window. He's waving goodbye (for the last time, unknown to me) to his only daughter, six months pregnant with his first grandchild. Funny how he will always be there in that window, always. The funniest thing is that because of the many years that have rushed by since then, I can't see him anywhere else. Outside of old photographs that is. I can only see him in his gown, blue and charcoal gray, little diamonds and dots, standing at the window after pressing himself up from a wheelchair. His face is softly stubbled and his eyes are the gentle blue eyes that come to me in my dreams. He smiled down at me in the parking lot, having to head back to the airport, to my life and he raised his hand in silent love. I know that if I knew then what I know now, I would have missed that flight. I sat in a hospital in Phoenix much more recently with my birth father, having had only a few short years to know him as a man, watching him die. His words will always be etched in my heart, "take care of yourself and know that I have always loved you". A legacy of wonder, those words.
As I spent the last week there in the hospital my too quick rebuttal to a life lived less than healthy came back to haunt me............ "if I get old and sick, just shoot me". Thankfully a knee replacement is not a critical event, a place where life hangs in the balance. There is tie enough to be there, without a doubt that place can't be ignored. Everywhere I looked there were bent old men on walkers roaming the halls and women far past their prime being wheeled to their rooms on gurneys that dwarfed them. Their eyes almost translucent, with the look of life long past and mute acceptance about where they were going. I don't want to be like them. My fear is that I will.
Prayers that rise are for all of those in hospitals, facing the fears of generations past and those to come. That life and death may hold them gracefully and graciously. For all of us with our own memories to sort, and for those facing the cliff that may mark the end.
While we wait we knit, we stitch, we crochet, we do some applique or hand sewing---- we read, we chat------ all like a duck on water, it is what we are doing with our hands while we process with our minds and our hearts. It is quite simply what we do.
Count your blessings. Pass one on.