1 L normal saline did a solid nothing for Sarah.
Still with cracked lips and tachy-
Cardia. Tachypnea. Tackling cancer.
Hospital day 7, still "lousy" -
her answer to "Mood?"
Reckon I'd feel lousy with mets as well.
I noticed, again, her cracked hands.
Handed her ice water,
eyes on the vitals.
Her dark eyes are listless.
"I'm ready for the end" and then
Ends my streak of optimism.
I gave her the spiel:
"We are giving it our all"
But she has given up already.
I get all ready at 6:30.
I start my stroll back home.
Sarah stays behind -
A Melody for Maria
Maria told stories like they happened just yesterday.
Quite possibly because she thought they did.
The things, the moments, that stuck with her were hurtful ones.
Did she spend her life worrying?
Maria had been telling her son to keep speaking Mandarin, lest he forget it.
She wanted to be convincing, but didn't know how and could not remember why.
She played violin. Hers had three broken strings and a dusty case.
She spoke of landlords and gardens and her father.
And then, with talk of her mother, a saddness draped over her light blue eyes like a curtain. Her mother - whose mind knew the heaviness of the Alzheimer's anchor - had missed the train and been helped by a stranger. She had gotten lost getting home and couldn't dress on her own. And then she died.
Recollections of her mother's death came, bringing tears alongside. It was heartbreaking to see Maria's tears, but even more heartbreaking was the transition. For as quickly as I reached for her hand, her mind reached for a different topic: pets.
Then she heard the song - a familiar song. And a smile emerged. A liveliness emerged.
She was humming, singing the words, tapping her foot.
And before I knew it, she was up - holding my hands and dancing in time.
She was up and dancing and moving, without a care in the world and with every ounce of genuine excitement.
She didn't know her daughter's age, and it didn't matter. She knew the song.
Her weary legs were the limiting reagant. So she sat down, still singing the song.
Her foot continued tapping perfectly to the irregular beats of the old jazz classic as she started, but never finished, a sentence about the color of her cat.
Her memory couldn't hold on to much. But music wrapped itself around her mind, mind you, and that did the trick. It pulled the right levers and pushed the right buttons to make her move like I would never have guessed she could.
Like I could never forget.
Sido got sick again. I had made plans to fly across the Atlantic - to see him soon. He flew into the next life first.
It didn't make sense. I had said my prayers and lit some candles. Every time I got scared, I did the Sign. And I did it three times.
I had asked for just one thing - one more chance - and that one thing had a million important things packaged inside: one last hug, one last laugh, one last life story.
One last goodbye.
She sat at a long table and stared at a simple sandwich - but it was complicated. It takes 10 bites to eat that. She took none.
She sat in an upright chair, slumped and starving, hands in her lap. To her right, one girl was nibbling at the side salad. To her left, another was tearing up rye bread into really tiny pieces.
In that moment, in front of that scary chicken-salad sandwich, she didn’t want to be nourished or healthy or strong. She just wanted to be skinny.
Bones. One word on repeat in my mind every time I look at her.
She saw me see her side glances.
Her distrust is evident. Her anxiety is palpable.
What do they say about me now? What will they make me eat next?
We - the doctors, the nutritionist, the therapist - are her team in theory.
Anorexia is her teammate in real life.
It has given her a pamphlet of secret plays
to ward off the anxiety -
the plate after plate of anxiety we present.
Blank face melts away as I approach.
The edges of her pale lips trend upwards in a smile.
I think about her iron deficiency anemia and hypokalemia.
She thinks about running off her next meal.
She is animated as she speaks. She is bright, I can see.
She has learned what to say
to push my worry away.
Motivated to recover - for good this time.
She wants me to believe that
everything is ok right now.
I just want to believe that,
one day, it will be.
Dolly reminds me again that she still has "her marbles".
She has forgotten who I am, but not to whom she is praying: Saint Jude.
She knows not why she is here, but knows exactly for whom she prays: her husband.
I see tufts of grey hair emerging from underneath her light brown wig.
I see bright eyes, wide smiles, and liveliness.
Marbles or not, if Dolly could walk, she would be dancing.
On Friday, he told me he wanted to die. Before I knew it, I wanted to die too. The weekend's evenings felt heavy, and I was suffocating. There was a jumble of thoughts in my head and a heterogeneous mixture of feelings in my spirit.
And then the stone-cold reality of despair.
Were these feelings organic or synthetic? Was I a source of this darkness - or merely a reflection?
A patient's pain - can't I hug it away?
Can't I absorb it and smother it on my own?
I glance at my fingers. I look at a screw.
I stare at the window - can't I jump through?
I am struggling to find a place to place this pain.