Beve, E and I are lying here on our beds at the Silver Cloud, just blocks away from the hospital where Beve's sister lies deeply asleep. That's what it looks like, that she's just deeply asleep, with tubes and IVs running in and out.
I've been in ICUs or CCUs before. Twice, actually. Beve's Mom spent several weeks there before she died. And my dad spent the last two days of his life in a room very much like the one in which G-J breathes in and out, in and out, in and...well, you get the idea. To say that it's hard to be in such a room understates how it feels. To say that there's no place I'd rather be also understates it.
I wonder if it's because I have lived this before, stayed in a hotel down the street from an ICU where a loved one breathed that it shortens my breath until I'm holding it, that this hurts so deeply. Or if it's because this loved one, this woman, with her husband standing at the end of her bed, her father leaning heavily on his cane just outside the door and her brother, with tears in his eyes, sitting beside her, this woman has meant so much to me, so much to my children that they would have moved heaven and earth to also be here.
It's both, of course. I carry my past with me in every situation. We all do. Well, all except someone like my mother who no longer has a past, and only has each moment as they come, and those only tenuously, though I'd like to believe that they're there inside that Swiss cheese brain. And G-J, even in this coma, even with a radiated brain, holds within her all her own memories. They're there in the "Life is good," hat. There in the guest book quickly filling up. Those memories run rampant on the pages of her address book, so full a names, slips of papers, reminders. Her husband handed that book to me and I felt a surge of laughter at this woman, so committed to others and, I dare say, so very like her mother, whose address book long not needed, sits in a drawer in my house. I can walk into that room, where computer monitors line her bed, where needles and latex gloves are available in every size, just open a drawer, pull them out of a box, and I can look past those things, because to me, this is her room. A room where an angel sits on the window sill, a gift given by one of her myriad friends, and flowers appear from a colleague of her husband. But these are not the things that make this room hers. It's because she lies in it, deeply asleep. I look over at her and and imagine walking into that sterile, medicinal beeping place tomorrow morning and she'll be sitting up, asking for a Starbucks, with just the right amount of cream--"Do I need to give you a color swatch?"--laughing at all of us for being so worried.
But I've a night like this before. And I know how it turned out.
But until that room no longer has her name on it, one way or another, it's what I'll imagine, what I'll believe and hope for.