|Soar (M.A.Reilly, Hudson River, Nyack, NY, 2009)|
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it's like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.
Yesterday, a woman down the hall died. This morning as I pass the room, I notice that it has been set right again--almost as if her death had not occurred. The room now awaits the next person: The bed has been made ready. The lighting is balanced. The floor has been mopped clean. The reclining chair has been angled just right next to the bed. All has been readied.
And I imagine that some other family, somewhere in this hospital, like us a mere 5 days ago, are feeling the seams of their lives pulled apart. I need you to understand that the shock is so significant, so encompassing when the doctor says there is nothing left to try that you barely notice the blood pooling at your feet.
On this floor of the hospital, some people come here to die. Others come here in order to be ready to go home to die. All though desire to die without the overt shroud of the hospital. And though death awaits--more imminently perhaps than the majority of us acknowledge, this knowledge is impossible to hold steadily.
Pain this severe is blessedly not constant.
So it is not surprising that at first, I deny the death down the hall.
Don't see it.
I don't talk about it.
I don't want anyone visiting Rob to discuss it.
If I don't say it aloud, then it isn't real.
I try to avert my eyes each time I walk down the hall, but it's like a terrible accident I can't pull my eyes from. They know something I will need to know, I will have to learn. What happens next? Is it just some human sleep? Is it more?
After the woman passes her family gathers around her bed and a clergy member leads them in prayer and invites their stories. This goes on for several hours. They are marking her time on earth with tears, and stories, and silence, and sighs, and pauses, and starts, and laughter.
As I settle in next to Rob's bed this morning, in the reclining chair angled just so, I think, story is all we have. I mustn't forget that.