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Fears and Promises MAG
“My shift is almost over … is there anything I can get you before I go?” asked the nurse.
“I'm fine. Thank you,” my mother answered. Her voice was husky and tired from all the tears she had shed since that morning.
“It's wonderful that she's finally getting some rest.”
I had been on the verge of sleep all night – not quite awake or asleep. Barely aware of what was going on around me, I was regularly jerked back into consciousness by the nagging nuisances of vomiting, crying, and the tornado of flames and blades that mercilessly inhabited my stomach.
I'm not asleep … not exactly. I'm here with you. I can hear you.
The pounding in my head rang in my ears and made the lights too bright. I didn't want to open my eyes. The pain medicine flooding through the IV into my arm had given me cotton mouth, torturing my scorched throat and sealing my chapped lips. I didn't have the energy to open my mouth to talk, and my mind was as worn out as my body.
“You've certainly had a rough couple of months, and now, with such a large, burdensome operation later this week … Have you taken advantage of our onsite counselors?”
“Miranda talks to the woman from Child Life once in a while, but none of us are really up for counseling,” my mother whispered, her hot hands wrapped around my hand that wasn't hooked to an IV.
“All right, I'd better be hitting the road. I wish the best of luck to both of you,” the nurse cooed. The slamming door announced her exit. I jumped, yanking at the cords that seemed to be plugged into my veins wherever they surfaced.
“It's okay. Calm down. Do you need help?” Mom soothed.
What surgery? What's going on? My mind begged.
“My hand is really cold. It feels like someone's hitting it with a hammer,” I replied, ignoring my own questions.
“It's the IV. You're getting another transfusion. The blood's refrigerated – that's probably why you're cold. Hang on, baby, I'll call the nurse.”
She leaned over and squeezed my hand, forcing me to hit the call button.
“Can I help you?”
Explain this to me.
“Can Miranda's nurse bring a heating pack for her IV hand?”
“Yes,” the wall replied.
“Thank you.” She let out a long sigh. I forced my eyes open and noticed her red eyes and frizzy hair. She spoke with a sharp intake of breathe. “Oh … oh, honey.” Tears filled her eyes. “Where did my baby go?”
“Mom …,” I murmured, trying to connect my brain and my lips.
“There's no light in your eyes. They're all red too. Are they bothering you? You're so pale. Your lips, your cheeks … you usually have that rosy glow. Even your gums are pale,” she said, running a hand through my tangled hair. Her voice was suddenly very thick.
“Hey, girly, I've got your hot pack!” my day nurse, Erin, walked in. I was familiar with all the staff by now. I winced each time she slapped the chemical-response pack against her leg. “Did you get any good movies off the cart today?”
“No, she hasn't been feeling up to hanging over the bed to pick one out. Ever since she collapsed walking to the window, she hasn't gotten up.”
“You know what my favorite movie is? Ever seen ‘Elf'? It always cheers me up.”
I lied, shaking my head.
“What? You haven't seen ‘Elf'? It makes me laugh every time, and I've seen it a billion times. You know what? I'm going to bring you a copy,” she tittered, pressing the pack into my hand and wrapping the excess elastic over and over.
“That sounds nice, right, sweetie?” Mom said.
I nodded, not really listening.
“Are you getting ready for tomorrow?” Erin asked. My brow furrowed.
“What's tomorrow?” I asked.
“The- Oh! Your IV is beeping,” she exclaimed, giving a name to the wailing that echoed in my ears.
She swung the pole toward her, untangling the tubes and cords, then restarted the flow of medication. I winced as the smell and taste of saline and medication filled my mouth and burned my nose.
“I know that face. Is it really that quick?” she asked, smiling. I nodded, forcing the disgusted expression from my face. “I'll let you rest, hon. You look tired. Ring if you need me.”
I nodded, wondering if it would do me any good to whine about not being allowed any water. I felt like I was trying to eat sand.
My mother closed the door once Erin had left, then grabbed a chair and pulled it to my bedside.
“While you were sleeping, your medical team came in,” she began.
“And?” my voice cracked.
“The Remicade didn't work.”
“It means you're dying.”
A wave of nausea rolled over me, and fear curled up in my chest, squeezing my sternum. In that second, the pause before she continued, I realized my greatest fear. Death.
But it was more complicated than that. I did not fear death itself. I feared dying now, dying young, dying without saying good-bye, dying without apologies. I feared dying without forgiveness, acceptance, and resolve. I feared dying before I could have all the experiences I wanted: going to college, getting my doctorate, having a family, owning a home, traveling, publishing a book.
In that second, I thought of all my dreams that would never come true. I feared the what-ifs: What if I went to hell? What if I went to heaven? What if the beliefs I have held so close to my heart were nothing more than myths? What if I simply ceased to exist? What if I became one of the ghosts I didn't believe in? What if?
You're dying. The words echoed in my head. As my mother paused, my heart fell from my chest and dropped into my stomach, which had somehow collapsed on itself. My ribs squeezed against my chest until they began to overlap. My lungs shriveled into raisins, and my windpipe collapsed. Blood pounded in my ears and through my head, surrounding my brain that was on the verge of exploding.
I blinked, and my vivid physical reaction faded into a scene that rolled across the inner eyes of my mind. I realized I was holding my breath. I gasped, relieving the pain pressing on my throat and chest with nothing more than a small sip of oxygen.
“I signed the papers while you were sleeping. You are going to have surgery tomorrow. You remember the one they said was a last resort? The colectomy and ileostomy? It's going to save your life. You're bleeding to death, and your organs are starting to fail because they aren't getting enough blood or oxygen,” she explained, crying and holding my free hand in hers. “I'm so sorry, Miranda – it was the only way.”
My body reassembled, and a few pieces broke again in a different reaction: an effort to cope rather than say good-bye. But because I've seen, felt, and been to that point, now I live my life in a different way. I live life thankfully, cautiously, seriously.
That day I made myself the following promises: I will never go to bed angry, never leave a fight without resolving it, never forget to apologize when I wrong someone or hurt someone I love. I will never neglect to tell my loved ones just how much they mean to me. I will never be bitter about my life, and will never allow myself to be angry with God. I will never have a tragic or bitter end to any friendship or relationship. I will never close my eyes to the world.
And finally, I will never leave this world with fear or regrets.