I was heading into my shift at work on a rainy, Wednesday evening when I decided to call my aunt before I entered the kitchen. By this time, my aunt’s condition was improving, and it looked like she was going to be released to a rehabilitation place. The call was more so I could hear her voice. It was a short call, four minutes, if that long. It covered the ‘do you need anything’ and the ‘I love and miss you.’ I hung up and began my shift like any other day.
It was close to seven when I got home from work. I had kicked off my shoes and changed out of my work clothes. I had barely relaxed when my cousin, Brandy, called me. She told me that my aunt had went into cardiac arrest and was unresponsive. The doctors said that we should come to the hospital, because they weren’t sure how long she had. Brandy gave me the option to go or stay home. I knew that I would replay whatever I saw in my head, but knew I’d regret it if I didn’t go.
Brandy and I got into the elevator once again, and headed to the ICU. This time my aunt was in a small, narrow room at the end. Doctors and nurses, pretty much the entire hospital, were in that room. Brandy entered the room, where I stood outside the door and watched, just like I had when my mom died. I watched my aunt’s entire body flail nonstop. She was already a bigger women, but with her entire body swollen, it made the room feel even smaller and more overwhelming. It wasn’t too long after Brandy and I got there when Jennifer and Brad (my aunt’s two friends) had arrived. Both of them crying and complete messes. Brad had spent nearly everyday with my aunt during the time that she was in the hospital. Jennifer was my aunt’s best friend, but felt more like family. Jennifer went into the room for a moment, but couldn’t stay in there for long because it was too hard. We all wanted a way were we could get her body to stop flailing. The answer to that was sedation. Seconds before she was sedated, she became responsive. She was talking for about thirty seconds, while Brandy comforted her, until she was sedated.
After she was sedated Brandy was still in the room talking to the doctors. Jennifer and Brad couldn’t handle being there much longer, so they began saying their goodbyes to me. They began to say how much they loved me, and even though my aunt was gone, they didn’t want to lose touch. When they were saying those things, it became real. It was when I couldn’t pretend everything was okay. It was when the tears slid out of my eyes. The tears that came so quickly, that the rest of my face didn’t even look sad. The rest of my face began to match the sadness I was feeling on the inside when Jennifer hugged me. I was crying so hard that I couldn’t breath. The sound of me catching my breath broke the silence of the ICU. I cried for a few minutes, but then quickly pulled myself together and stopped.
While we were still checking out the condition of my aunt, Jennifer and Brad had left. For about a half hour, Brandy was talking on the phone while sitting in a dark waiting room, which was next to the entrance of the ICU. Since I am comforted when I observe my surroundings, I was outside of that small waiting room. That also meant I got to see who was coming and going through those doors. I watched a lady in her eighties check out and leave. I also got to witness two nurses, a male and female, carry three hospital bags to a patient’s room. They were also carrying two bed pans full of ice water that had green tea, lemonade, sauerkraut, and who knows what else sitting in the water. Those bags and bed pans were my aunt’s. I stood there and watched them transfer her belongings back to the ICU. I almost began to cry again, so instead I looked at the wall behind me. On the wall was a picture frame that had about fifty pictures of different nurses. I looked at the people and the names under those faces until I wasn’t close to crying. We hadn’t stayed at the hospital too much longer after that.
The ironic thing was that the problems my aunt was having when she was “okay” were improving. Then the parts of her body that were healthy weren’t so healthy any more. Her age and how long her heart was stopped the night she entered the hospital determined what was going to happen to her. The hospital staff knew the chances of a patient leaving the hospital whose heart had stopped was slim. It turned out that from the beginning, her organs weren’t able to start up properly, and eventually began failing.
After talking for a bit in front of the apartment, I said goodbye to Brandy and went into the apartment. As soon as I locked the door, I collapsed onto the floor crying. If the guy in the unit next to me could have heard me, he would have thought I was dying. In a way it felt like I was. My heart hurt, physically, more than it had ever had in the past. If my room hadn’t been less than a foot away from where I collapsed, I wouldn’t have made it to my bed that night.
God was definitely with me.
“For it is you who light my lamp; the Lord my God lightens my darkness.” Psalms 18:28 (ESV)