I have a friend (I love saying that even though we’ve never actually met), she’s a writer — a real writer. Like a kick-ass-slap-you-in-the-face-and-make-you-stand-up-straight writer. Her mother died recently, a long drawn out emotionally draining death to that bitch cancer. But here’s my take-away on a piece of this… she’s writing. And it’s amazing. And she’s touching my soul and making me think about things I thought I was quite comfortably past.
My father died in November a couple of years ago. He had been in the hospital for over 30 days, a week of which was in the hospice unit. During those 30 days, I visited everyday — everyday. I spent many nights in that horrific chair that folds almost flat. If my day at work brought me close to the hospital, I would stop in there for lunch in the cafeteria with my mom — usually 2 or 3 times a week and every weekend.
My routine was simple, I went to my dad’s room. He would immediately say, “Hi sweetheart” or “Hi bulldog” (he took to calling me bulldog during that last month for some reasons I might talk about on another day), then he would say, “take your mother out of here”. My mom would already be getting up to come with me to the cafeteria. It wasn’t an enormous amount of time we would spend in there together — maybe 30 or 40 minutes. But it was our time — time to not worry about the cancer that was taking over my father’s body, time to not worry about the next test or medicine or oxygen levels. We would peruse all the various staples the cafe had to offer then we would sit off to the side and people watch — the greatest pastime of all. We would eavesdrop on conversations and smile at the familiar nurses as they walked by. We would make plans on what do to when they finally let Dad go home — a hospital bed and nursing care and a wheelchair… we had it all worked out. When we were done, we would head back up to Dad’s room (I always stopped at the coffee kiosk to get him a cup of coffee and mom one too), I would kiss him goodbye and let him know which night I would be staying with him and which day I would bring the kids by — and I would leave and carry on with my day. This was my routine… for a month, this was my routine.
After my mom died, I felt I was mourning both their deaths because it all happened so quick. I was numb for a while — in the beginning. One day, I found myself driving in a familiar area at lunch time — my car guided itself into the hospital parking garage. I walked to the cafeteria and perused the various offerings. I sat off to the side and I eavesdropped on a few conversations. I smiled at a few familiar faces. I stopped at the coffee kiosk on my way to the waiting area on the hospice floor. I sat down and drank my coffee… and I left and carried on with my day. There were no thoughts, no cognitive processing — just physical actions. I did this about 3 or 4 times over the next month or two — I don’t know why… but it felt good, the routine, the familiarity of it.
So, my friend, the kick-ass writer — brought that deeply buried memory of that routine to the forefront of my thoughts. Words do that for us sometimes. Words matter. They help us, they heal us, they break us, they anger us, they sadden us, they make us shake in fits of laughter. That’s my take-away from this — I don’t know why… but it feels good to experience all those things.