Lasts V; Many Lasts
This night was spent in the hospital, just the four of us. You tested positive for c. diff, they asked us to wear isolation gowns and scrub down and change gowns any time we left the room or came back in. Exposing it to the other immune compromised patients was a big deal, and the carts were outside many of the rooms down the hall holding hand sanitizer, gowns and masks. A breakout, I guess. We brought cards and Wendy’s. You had a few bites. You asked for it and said it smelled good, you didn’t eat it, however. I distracted myself from the untouched food with finding something legit to watch on TV. I found Ghost Adventures and that was good enough.
You were frustrated that night. Restless and feeling gross in all the ways. You resented all the tubes and wires attached to you and couldn’t get comfortable. I listened and told you I brought stuff to do your nails. You smiled. I reminded you of the very first time you had surgery for this bitch almost 7 years ago and I painted your nails while you slept one day. You woke up and liked them a lot. You kept looking at them and admiring them while you laid there. Then it became a thing we did during hospital stays. You picked the color. Bright pink with sparkles.
We talked about nothing I remember while I did them. Nurses came in and out and had stuff to do, but we were in our world, doing something that came naturally and easy to us. I wish I remember what we talked about. I wish I remember every conversation.
We took a break while they had to x-ray you with a mobile machine. I knew that meant it was incredibly difficult for you to move. I left the room, went to the waiting room and looked at the Denver skyline. I just stood there, in disbelief, but knowing what faced me.
I finished your nails and as always, you were happy with them. They are so pretty! Thanks seester! I knew I would never do your nails again.
A little more time went by watching Ghost Adventures and then you asked me to braid your hair. You think 2 french braids will help it not look so gross? I don’t know how I responded but your hair was never gross. Those who knew you, knew you had long dark hair down to the small of your back. It grew like weeds after chemo and you would cut inches off only to have them grow back in a month.
So I got out the brush and two ponies. I made a part down the middle and knelt behind you on the bed.
I started to weave your hair in and out of my fingers. Tiny little starts at the beginning, grabbing hold of more dark hair. I was moving a little quickly because I was afraid you were uncomfortable. And as I was only a quarter way down I slowed down significantly. This is the last time I’m going to brain your hair, isn’t it moo? The last time I’ll brush it?, I thought. I can only imagine what this feeling is like for a momma. But for a big sister, I can tell you this was like a knife in my heart. We grew up doing each other’s hair, nails, borrowing clothes. Normal sister things. It’s over.
On the next braid I made at least one “mistake” and had to start over. I wonder if you knew that. Oh, I wanted to savor each moment. Each twist around my fingers. When I finished, I ran my fingers down your braids. It was still so long even pulled back like that. I did it again. “There. It’s beautiful! Feel better? “
I laid next to you in bed. We got close together. I took a photo of us. The very last one.
John and T went to go get food. I sat by you and you began to talk.
How do I know I did it right here, on Earth?
If this is the end, should I be scared?
Will Jesus be happy with how I lived my life?
Many truthful, beautiful things were said between you and I. Some of it I forgot, but some of it I remember. “Em, I’m sad I survived the surgery. When I think about it, I’m so sad for me. But when I think about it more, I’m so sad for all of you. Johnny, mom and dad, T…. the kids…. oh my gosh. I can’t even think of that.You guys can understand, they can’t.”
I grabbed your hand. We locked eyes.
Mary, if you are done with cancer, be done. It’s ok. We are so proud. You gave us 7 more years! Each of my kids know you! Have memories! I had 7 more years with you. I can’t begin to say how much we will miss you. But if it’s time, it’s time, moo.
You dropped your shoulders, closed your eyes and simply said ok.
John and T walked in and I was wiping my eyes.
We changed the mood and put on music, pulled out cards to play Aww Hell and you lost for the first time ever. I think medicine made you slower and more distracted, where it would have laid me flat, you still played! How on earth did you do that!? And you didn’t even lose by a lot! You were a freak of nature when it came to medicine and you know it.
I know that same night you asked Johnny the same types of questions. I didn’t hear the talk, that was apparently a conversation you wanted to have with just him. I am so glad you did. You were making peace. For the first time.
But I can just hear you now “Johnny? I have to ask you something….” And the way you two talked to one another began to unfold.
The night of surgery to the evening you died gave us time to process, in some small way, didn’t it? All of us. We each had our own way. We each still have our own way. It’s so hard.
I posted on Instagram that night a photo of the three of you playing cards. I thought so many times I should have the nurse take a picture of all of us! But for some reason, it seemed like asking a lot of all of us. To smile and move and sit still while our hearts where writhing inside of us. But I still regret it. It was last time we would hang out like that. Playing games, listening to music. Laughing. The fajitas weren’t part of it, but I guess that’s understandable. It’s what we did. Seesters. Brothers. Easy.
You told me two days later the times Johnny and I came up to the hospital were the highlights of your time in the slammer. I’m so glad, moo. You just kept giving precious gifts of words those final days. Thank you.
After you left us, I did my nails to match yours for your funeral. One last time to match. These lasts, moo, are killing me. I wonder if it’ll get better after March 19th? I hope. But I can’t count on it.
Lasts abounding this night. Missing you always. I love you.