Don’t cry because it’s over,
smile because it happened.
This is the routine now, yet every day is a construct of tensions that remain fresh in your heart. The days are long now, filled with a silence that hovers between a cascading polyphasia and meditative calm. Whatever a comfort zone might be, this is not it.
The hospital rises above the skyline in a way it never had before. It was never the tallest building, certainly never the most beautiful. Yet it looms the way the church spires in the mountain villages did – drawing your eye, your awareness. The hush inside is almost reverential – here on the fourth floor in Maternity new life tastes sharp air for the first time, three floors above in ICU others are fading into their final moments. All this occurring in an anechoic chamber of joy and sorrow, reflecting on lives lived, and yet to be lived, experiences remembered or to be experienced for the first time. This is a cathedral, a place to worship life.
There will be things that haunt you forever after – the distant hubbub of traffic at the corner cafe where you stop and wait, listening to the way steam and milk chatter like a songbird in reverse. The taste of cherries, redcurrants and yoghurt. The hum of the elevator doors and the slow muted beeps of the countless monitors and machines that count off the seconds with a pulse so deep it presses into a part of your heart you never knew was there.
They sleep a lot now, and you hesitate to wake them. There are questions (so many questions!) that you never got around to asking, never thought were going to seem this important -but you let them sleep. You may reach hesitantly for a hand, and feel shock at how insubstantial it feels- as though their soul is untethering like a child’s balloon, soon to rise unchecked beyond your sight into the endless blue.
You have to leave sometimes – there will be procedures, visits to departments locked off from your presence, times where families are separated for respite from the battering force of those frantic final moments of love. Ugly chairs in the waiting rooms, balconies that won’t open, a cafeteria down in the lobby: all places you have become familiar with. Sometimes you go into the garden and take off your shoes and feel the long cool grass on your feet. When was the last time you did that? Childhood seems so long ago, yet the sense of helplessness resides in the core of your turmoil. This cannot be happening. You are not ready to be alone.
This is the routine now, this feeling of a life lived in parallel with the person you once were. Somewhere ahead you will return to your old life, or as close as the hungering of loss is going to allow. Until then you will stand resolute and be this person without a qualm; visiting, sitting, stroking their hand, reading to them, watching their thin sleep, crying and laughing together, taking off your shoes and feeling the life of grass as you wonder for a fleeting moment if you could still turn a cartwheel. Exulting at the life we all have been gifted, for those too weary to celebrate their share today.