Stacy Jo ’21 reflects on the hope that a family member holds on to as he/she waits anxiously for the truth about whether a loved one survived another day.
(Song to listen to as you read:)
“Head Above Water” by Avril Lavigne / “Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol
There’s too much of it from where I’m sitting.
The turning of newspapers. The buzzing of sirens.
The running water of the fountain, though at a fair distance, seems to echo profoundly in my ears.
My eyes whip around from side to side, as figures in white coats or blue medical scrubs scurry back and forth carrying stethoscopes, bags of blood, and hospital beds from one side of the hospital to another.
Unfamiliar faces are somber, stern or seething at first sight, like no one wants to be where they were. I keep my head down, avoiding all possible eye contact.
My head is pounding as the blood slowly rushes to my face. A chaos of emotions rushes through my brain with every heartbeat that pulses louder and louder.
My chair feels so uncomfortable: I am stuck between intervals of standing and sitting every second and a half.
But nothing beats the stress.
It radiates from the walls, the floor, the flashing lights, the restless people. It drives me insane how easily I sense it. Such is the character of a waiting room.
I shut my eyes so tightly, in hopes that the noises will go away.
Too bad – it doesn’t.
Hope: a gift and a curse is the only way I can think of it.
An inevitable conclusion after sorting through a clutter of thoughts in the corner of your mind, full of anger, frustration, despair, and misbelief.
And yet it’s the one thing you’re clinging onto as you sit in front of the ICU, waiting for the one you love to fight and win his battles.
I didn’t even get the chance to do many things before his body shut down on him.
Have a conversation at the counter together at breakfast. Walk along the neighborhood sidewalk, debating about the difference between rollerblades and rollerskates. Give him a good-night hug before we each head off for bed after another long day.
Or even to say goodbye.
All I could do for him was get in a car and drive him to a hospital, full of panic and fear.
Is this how someone should be in one’s potentially last moments?
“Please calm down, miss.”
I need to know if he’s going to be okay.
“We’re doing everything we can.”
What can I do?
I really want to believe them. I do believe them; this is their job, the thing that they’ve trained for years and years to become.
But even when I know they’re telling the truth, I can’t help but spit harsh words. Can’t help but search for something to blame, for an inkling of a notion to explain why he hasn’t returned from those emergency doors.
The worst of it comes when there is nothing you can do but wait.
Wait through a war that you can’t fight.
Who are you waiting for?
I turn my head slowly from those wretched doors and face a woman in her 50’s, calmly sitting in the chair next to mine. Wearing grey loose slacks and a faded green hoodie with a small purse in her lap, she stares at me intently as she repeats her question.
What’s he in there for?
Ah. My husband too.
And with that, a silence seems to seep into the space between the two of us. Words fail to provide the detail of our predicaments. We didn’t have to talk:we both knew. We had done this before—the entire wake-up-shocked-and-rush-to-the-hospital getup. And each time, it’s absolutely nerve-wracking and gut-wrenching. Heart-breaking.
What should I do?
This time, the lady turns her head towards me, confused at my sudden question.
What should I be doing right now?
The remark sounds too vexing for anyone else to demand. Yet she seems to understand as she sighs and says,
Take a deep breath and hope that as you wait, a miracle comes around.
Hope as we wait. When hope is nothing but a thorn in your side? When a sped-up timer is placed on a lifeline, and you can’t help but watch by the sidelines? A miracle seems so far of an outreach.
I’m headed to the cafeteria for a coffee. Is there anything I can get you?
It seemed a weak gesture from where I sat, but the thought mattered more than ever—that someone you may never see again, or even speak to, was willing to offer a morsel of moral support for you.
No, but thank you. Truly.
And with that, she, and that support, dissipated away.
And the doors open.
And everything stops.
All is still—the rushing blur of people. The alarms. The very particles in the air.
All thoughts vanish from my head as the world fades away into the white walls, white noise.
All except the blue gown and mask walking towards me.
Every moment is thought through a hundred, two hundred times over.
Every footstep: is he sauntering or is he dragging?
Every breath he takes: a sigh of relief or a sigh of complete dread?
Every and any trace I can find in his stance, I scrutinize and interpret. Any sign that tells me that my father did not abandon his broken body for a place I can’t follow.
That he found the will to live just one more day.
Will this fragile hope prevail?