I watched him as he laid there. All sedated and comatose.
I hadn’t seen him in months.
He grew out his military cut. He even grew a beard. I had never seen him with a beard.
In fact, there was a running joke that he referred to both as his “Majestic Hair and Kingly Beard”. Yes. He’d say that.
It was all sort of his “#?*! you” to the military.
Yes, he’d say that, too. But didn’t mean it.
And oh! He was strikingly handsome.
He was a big, brute of a man as an adult. Strong. He spent a lot of time working on that, too. Eating the right things and lifting heavy weights. Loved to run.
One day while on a tour in Iraq he heard and felt a hard crunch. He hurt. But he kept going. Year after year without mentioning it again.
He worked and lifted and ran until one day he could not even sit any longer. Finally seeking out a doctor, he found that he had broken his back. Tiny fragments of bone loose around his spine.
Still trying all he could to remedy and heal, he worked and worked through it. Until it became inevitable that surgery was necessary.
Everything…and I mean everything went down hill from there.
Botched surgeries. Painful rehab. Wounds that were stubborn to heal.
Three years of it all.
I watched helplessly as he had multiple surgeries. Did what I could to help nurse him along (but could I have done more? OH, thoughts like these can cause such torment!). Tried my best to encourage him.
But when a man’s down for the count for so long things start to unravel.
Phone conversation after phone conversation revealed his pain. In order to help him through, he was prescribed medications. Pain meds, psych meds, meds to fix this side effect…that side effect. This issue…that issue. Always readjusting and dosing according to his big, brute of a man size.
I saw it happening in front of me. Watched it from my side of the country. Watched when I could spend time with him. All that pain and all of those chemicals running through his body took a toll on him. In fact…took him over.
There’s nothing worse for a Momma than feeling so helpless.
I had always hoped that he would adjust. That his medical team knew what they were doing. That he’d finally have just one more surgery to fix his pain. After it was approved. After the paperwork went through. After the schedules worked out.
No longer able to work out and long since given in to the vicious cycle of waiting, he grew even bigger. I had not seen him this way. Ever. It wasn’t as if he was fat, so to speak. More like swollen.
I was told that he was so very ashamed to be this size. He didn’t want anyone to know. He would work on it soon.
After I saw him there all big and swollen, I joked that he looked like a balloon in a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. And that I’d bet he’d be the best of the show. Far better than Bullwinkle or Underdog.
Right up there with Superman.
I hadn’t noticed at first the size of his hospital bed. Actually, all I could see was my son lying in it…taking up the entire space of it. His feet practically jammed up against the foot of it.
I was soon told that it was brought in especially for him. The normal sized bed was way too small.
They brought in a Double Wide.
When they told me that, I had to laugh. Out loud laugh.
Because he would, too.
There were rails on both sides. Tubes hooked up and running into his mouth, his neck, his veins. Both sides were cuffed to all of the necessary cords that kept him alive. Barricaded by machines that made him breathe. Monitors to count every breath, every heartbeat, every single sign of life.
I couldn’t get to him. Oh, I could touch him…and I could bury my face on his chest if I stood on my toes and leaned in real hard…but I couldn’t reach him. Not like I wanted.
So when no one was around and I thought no one was looking…I climbed in. Not for long and as best I could I climbed up and laid myself across his body. I was afraid because I didn’t want to disconnect anything. But I had to try. I had to. After all, I’ve read about how the prophet Elisha did that…laid out and stretched himself over the body of a dead little boy and that dead little boy came alive.
I’m no prophet, but I believe like one.
And this was MY little boy.
There we were. Both of us.
Chest to chest.
Heart to heart.
I had a good cry then. There’s a bible translation that describes our tears as liquid words. Well, if that’s so, then I said a whole lot. Poured them out all over the shoulder of his hospital gown. I’ll bet you could have rung them out and filled a library full.
How I wish it would have been enough. But it wasn’t.
Later I’d see bruises all up and down my hips. My legs.
A reminder to me that I’d do anything.
Badges of Honor.
All from climbing up into that Double Wide.