Yesterday I spent the evening in the ICU.
My mother-in-law Martha collapsed on her way to her doctor appointment. An elderly friend of Martha was taking her to her appointment, pulled over when Martha said she was going to be sick, and couldn’t get her back in the car.
The rescue squad transported her to the nearest hospital where they had no room in their ICU. Then they transported her to a hospital a couple of hours away. This was good news for us because Martha was 20 minutes away versus 2 hours away.
We drove in nervous silence to the hospital. It was a long, windy, and bitterly cold day. It seemed like I had to park miles away from the door. The sharp winds whipped my face and stung. I ran to get in as fast as I could, but I really didn’t want to go. I was afraid of what I would find. I was afraid of how I might respond.
We searched for a long time down empty corridors for Martha’s room. We didn’t know where to go or what was happening. We weren’t sure what to expect. We had many questions and no answers.
We finally found the ICU. Only 2 visitors were allowed at a time. Paul and Angel went in first. While we were waiting, Martha’s husband Darryl arrived. Angel came out crying. My other 2 children went in. Angel sat on my lap and I held her in my arms while she cried.
Darryl and I were the last ones to enter. Paul helped me tie on my gown and I put latex gloves on as was ICU protocol. Then I saw Martha. She was so weak, sick, and fragile looking. She asked me if I was okay since I looked so tired. Her concern for me was strangely touching as she was the one in the hospital bed hooked up to machines. She was getting a blood transfusion and had a couple more bags being emptied into her body. She had to sign a consent form but couldn’t quite remember how to spell her name.
She told me that if she didn’t make it home, I should go through her items with the girls and take what I wanted even though she said she doesn’t have much. I told her I would.
It was all very beautiful and ugly at the same time. All of our previous issues faded away into the past. Yet I felt like I was in the way of the nurse. I didn’t know what to do. There was nothing I could do. Nothing but be there for her as her light starts to fade during her flame’s last few flickers.
Soon our brief time together came to an end. I tore off my gown and threw it in the garbage along with my gloves. I washed my hands in the the sink. Martha told me that she loved me. I told her that I loved her back.
After a long glance, I walked away and didn’t look back.