Written September 13, 2007
There always seems to be fresh flowers.
Beautiful blooms, beautiful bouquets wafting an ominous “heavy, heavy hangs over your head message” to those in the waiting room.
Forwarded with the best of intentions and tender feelings from family members and meant to bring a breath of life and color into a stilted atmosphere, the floral tributes also bring a chill to the heart and a hard thump from reality.
They’re funereal and in the waiting room – where we wait for who’s called next – they bring a hush and a quick check to see which of our comrades are still among us.
For we’re warriors here in the waiting room.
Most of us old and war weary, weak of vision and hearing, tired, battle scarred, depending on wheelchairs, walkers and canes for support, our foes our own bodies.
We battle every day, a clanking, clicking, rag-tag bandaged and bruised army, each rallying to push forward to battle again tomorrow.
And we live thanks to machines. We spend hours tethered to mechanical beeping nursemaids that with the zeal of industrious Dutch housewives scrub and rub-a-dub the bad stuff from our blood. They do what our kidneys no longer will and they provide an umbilical cord to the outside world.
Mortality is much on my mind these days. Mortality and quality vs. quantity. Mortality, quality vs. quantity, and aches and pains and crashing blood pressures and “minding my binders” and monitoring my food and drink. And keeping a positive attitude.
Mine seems to have become a “have not” life. There are many things in my life for which to be thankful, but
I have not good health.
I have not freedom of choice for food.
I have not choice in drink.
I have not a drug-free existence.
I have not freedom of movement too far in time or distance from the machines that keep me alive.
I have not the choice to let down my guard, to say “what the hell,” if I want to be alive three weeks from now.
After only six months of this “routine,” I can tell you it becomes mind-numbing, an emotionally exhausting and bone-wearying trial.
It’s obviously not one of my up days.
These days come and today – with the death of a comrade – is one of those days. The flowers in the waiting room today won’t be from Henry’s funeral, that won’t be for several days.
What will be missing from the waiting room will be Dolores, Henry’s strong-willed and gentle-hearted wife, and Dorese, his smiling-eyed helpful granddaughter and others of his large, loving family.
I’ll not mourn for Henry. His battle is over and if there is justice in the after-life, he’s earned a place of beauty, rest and surcease from pain. No, I’ll not mourn Henry’s release.
I will mourn for his family. Their loss will mean a loss for me, too.
I’ll miss them. I’ll miss the bright spot they brought to those thrice-weekly days at dialysis. The smiles and the laughter, the support of a gentle touch on the arm, a proffered cup of coffee – the small things and small talk that build a quick and tight-knit bond among those in battle.