As the end came to that long, long day my son’s condition seemed to stay the same.
He was hanging on.
And a few kind and loyal nurses came in and out of the room.
Checking on the three of us.
It was suggested by one of them that we should get some rest. Here are a few pillows and blankets. Go to the waiting room. Sleep a little. We will come get you if anything changes.
It had to be past midnight then.
My son lived through the day.
And I was so very tired. An amplified version of wired/tired.
My daughter and I went to the waiting area. All throughout the days it was so crowded and full of noise…and just then it seemed ghost like to me. There was only one man stretched out between two chairs at the far end of the room. CNN echoing in the emptiness.
We found two benches close to one another in a corner, placed our pillows at one end of each, and curled up on them.
I have to tell you that even though that bench was cold, rock hard, and horribly uncomfortable, laying my head on a pillow was such a welcome relief. As I laid there the realization of my trembling body frightened me some. I know I was in shock.
I did not want to sleep. How could I sleep?
I set the trusty alarm on my phone to wake me at 5 am. I found relief in that. I would will myself to wake up before dawn. Just in case I couldn’t do that, I’d allow that timer to keep watch for me.
Surprisingly, I feel into a deep sleep then. Hard.
A dead sleep.
But my mind didn’t let me down. I woke up before the alarm went off.
And it was the kind of waking that you are half conscious about. That cavernous darkness you find yourself aware of and the realization that you are coming to the surface. Like in a vacuum or tunnel and you feel yourself being sucked up into reality.
I woke with a jolt. A horrible, terrorizing jump into knowing.
My eyes snapped open with no effort at all.
On the other side of the room, the man was now gone…but CNN remained playing out on the TV screen.
The world was still turbulently turning and I was still there.
This was not a dream…a nightmare, for sure…but not a dream after all.
I sat up then and all I wanted to do…all I needed to do…was get back to that room.
My daughter sensed me awake and sat up, too.
Back into the room, things seemed the same. My son laid there looking the same. Still struggling to breathe on his own. But the same.
We sat there for some time. Time passed here…and I don’t know how much. I don’t remember.
It was some time before shift change, I know that. The night nurse was still there.
We decided that we might need some coffee. Yes. Let’s go downstairs to get some coffee. Together.
Now…let me tell you that I keep asking myself why we went down together. I guess it was the thought that Michael looked the same. And the idea that this might take many more hours and possibly days.
Before we left, I buried my face in my son’s chest. Kissed it. Loved on him and told him that I loved him more than words…
Son! I love you more than words.
I called my daughter to his side and told her do the same. Love on him, I said.
Just then, I looked him square in the face. Pointed my finger at him…shook it like I was serious.
Listen to me, Mike. We are going to go get some coffee. Listen to me, Son. DO. NOT. GO. ANYWHERE. UNTIL. I. GET. BACK! Do you hear me? I will be right back. Stay here.
As if he was six years old again.
Then down the hall we went…out the door, through the waiting area, down the elevator…walked the long hallway to the cafeteria that opened at 6 am.
I was dazed. We both were.
We filled our cups and as I was at the checkout ready to pay, I thought I heard it.
Is that my phone?
My phone was buried deep inside my purse. I thought I had the ringer on.
No, my daughter said. Mom, it’s something over there…Hear it?
Yes. Ok. I am being way too hyper aware.
We decided to sit a bit…and why? Why? I guess I had been in that hospital for so long and I needed a little break. Different surroundings. I needed to gain my strength and gather my thoughts. Prepare myself.
I barely had time to put my purse down. I was going to dig for my phone and see if I had missed anything. I looked up to see a young nurse coming toward me. Urgency on her face.
In no time, I knew. I knew.
Immediately, and without words, we jumped up and started to go back the path we walked to get there…but the nurse said no, follow me.
I remember going that back way…with all the signs on the doors saying “do not enter”, “personnel only”…the nurse using her name tag to open special doors and use the special elevator.
I could hear my heart in my ears. I was breathing hard. I was spinning.
I heard myself ask…and why did I ask just then?
The look on the face of the nurse was all I needed.
My son was gone.
We had been gone for less than fifteen minutes! Maybe less.
As the door of the elevator opened…I literally ran down the hall. Ran as fast as I could.
Back to room 252 for one last time.
Standing at the foot of his bed, I saw him. My son. Dead.
The night nurse on one side of him and a sweet, sweet nurse that we had come to love on the other.
Both holding onto a hand.
All I could think and all I could say was…
Michael! Son! You did not wait for me!
Ding-dang it Son! Just like always…all of your life!
All of it!
You had to have it your way. Your way to the very end.
I wanted to be with you!
Stubborn, stubborn Bull…
You defied me to the very end.