A Celebration Day

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It was giving me the chills, the creeps, the tingles. The smell seeps into your very pores, steaming itself right into your blood stream. There's something eerie about the quiet hallways, the wheelchairs, the large red buttons at every corner that call a nurse immediately. From my experience, no one likes hospitals. From my experience, no one likes hospitals, and no one wants to be there on Christmas Eve.

The Swedish Medical Center in Seattle is top notch in the Pacific Northwest for treating cancer patients. During the biggest snow storm San Juan Island had seen in years, my mom severely needed care for her terminal case of Ovarian Cancer. After she was flown off the remote island, before the worst of the snow hit, my brother and I followed her, holing up in the Green Tortoise Hostel down by Pike Place so that we could stay near to her.

On December 24th, 2008, my brother and I made the long trek up through the ice and snow layering Seattle's sidewalks from Pike Place to the hospital, heavy-hearted and weary. Every step I took, I dreaded that place. I dreaded seeing my beloved mom, closer to a skeleton than the splendor she used to be. I dreaded the quiet entry way, the hush hush around the doors of nearby patients. And on this very day, I dreaded stepping out of that elevator on the eleventh floor and knowing that there were other cancer patients just like my mom behind each of those doors, all suffering through a snowy Christmas Eve. Some had family, some didn't.

As I stepped into the room, I quit breathing. I kept the sterile stench away from my nose, and I held my breath as I bent to give my sleeping mom a kiss. The smell of each drug issuing into her body through tubes was enough to make me nauseous. I removed myself to sit in the open “TV-room” right down the hall, and leaned my forehead against the window to lose myself in the snowy cityscape. I had been there less than five minutes when a family came into the room together. With them was a woman in a wheelchair. She mirrored the image of my sick mom, and her family surrounded her. They were not, however, somber at the thought of Christmas Eve in the hospital. They each were laughing and joking as they took their beloved woman to see the sights of the eleventh floor. They smiled at me in greeting, and wheeled the woman out of the room, continuing the tour. As soon as they were gone I was on my feet, and back in my mom's room in a flash. She was awake, and eager to see me. With my brother's help, we carefully took her out of her stuffy room and into the long hallway. We passed that family, going the other direction, and I smiled back at them.

In this single moment of recognition of hardship, love, and celebration between our two families, I learned that no one in this world is ever alone. This separate family helped me, whether they knew it or not, to recognize that my love and dedication can exist anywhere, even in the most sterilized of hospitals. When faced with a tremendous difficulty, I can find my way just by understanding the strength in the things I care most about. With just a little hint, I was reminded that my love can overcome many of my deepest, darkest fears. With just a little hint, every now and then, I can look back and remember my mom for the beautiful and strong woman she was. Her memory to me cannot be of death, but it can be of life and love and something stronger than her absence from this world. She is not gone, so long as her memories live inside me. I love you Mom.





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