Posts Tagged ‘mental health’

Photo by Graham Ruttan on Unsplash

I quietly moved the hospital sheet away from his face and gently tucked his blanket around him. It wasn’t that he was aware that I was there. It was to give me something to do while I sat watched him die.

The life support had been pulled. He was wheeled into a private room with a window, a bed, and a metal folding chair. The chair was for me. I asked for a cot. One appeared within minutes. I wasn’t going to leave until he was gone.

He had been asleep for over 24 hours. It was just a matter of a day or two before he was gone. I sat night and day in the metal chair that I pulled up next to him and said nothing. There wasn’t anything left to say and yet there were a million things to say. I did not know what else to do except to sit and wait.

Once in a while a nurse would come in and check on me. Sometimes they brought me something to eat but mostly I would dash down to the cafeteria and grab a sandwich with a cup of coffee. I drank it black when they ran out of cream. I would stare at my watch when they were closed and counted the minutes until the cafeteria would be open again.

He had a brain injury he would never recover from. I had loved him since the day I was born. He was my brother, my protector, and my friend. Letting him go peacefully was the greatest gift I could give him and the I resented it. I resented that he had been hurt. I resented that he would never wake-up again and laugh and tickle me. I resented that I had to sit there by myself with nobody to talk to. I resented him dying and I resented that there wasn’t anything I could do about it.

For three days, I remembered everything I could about him. All our conversations, laughs, arguments, food fights, vacations and his relentless assurances that I was fine. I remember how angry he would make me and how horribly he would embarrass me when the grilled any boy picking me up for a date. It got so bad that I arranged to meet them down the street. He felt it was his duty and obligation to let them know that if anything happened to me, they would have to answer to him.

Those memories filled my heart and mind with tenderness and tears.

On the third day, knowing this was the day he would pass away, I had fallen asleep with my head on his bed. He had not moved for two days and the process was beginning. I slept lightly but exhaustion had taken its toll and I was in a deep sleep when I felt something brush my head. I thought I was dreaming and ignored it. I didn’t want to sleep but I also didn’t want to wake-up.

I felt it again. My head shot up. I felt a kink in my neck and rubbed it. I looked around the room. I wasn’t sure where I was for a moment. I looked down and him.

His eyes were open and he was staring at me.

I didn’t understand what was happening. The doctors had told us he was paralyzed, so who had touched my head?

“Hi,” I said. I had no idea what to say or what was happening.

He smiled. He tried to talk but no words came out. This was impossible. He was paralyzed from the neck down.

I leaned over and put my ear as close to his mouth. I held my breath.

“I love you,” he said and closed his eyes. I grabbed his hand and squeezed it as hard as I could. I stayed like that for an hour, still not believing what had happened.

“I’m sorry,” I finally said. “I’m sorry for all the times I was mean to you. I’m sorry I stole your toys and hid them and made you mad. I’m sorry this is happening and I’m sorry I can’t do anything about it.”

I felt him squeeze my hand. I started to cry. I thought that if I didn’t let go of his hand, he would live. It didn’t make sense but I was convinced of it. I held it tight all afternoon,

A nurse came in to check on us. She smiled and pulled my chair over to me as if she understood that I couldn’t let go and therefore couldn’t sit down.

I sat down and nodded her my thanks. She checked his vitals even though it was pointless. It was no longer a matter of days; it was a matter of moments.

She quietly left. The door closed and his eyes opened again. He looked around for a moment and saw me. I stood up again and smiled down at him.

“Don’t be sorry,” he whispered. I leaned over again and listened. “You’ve done nothing wrong,” he said. He closed his eyes and was gone.

I said nothing about it. I knew no one would believe me because it was physically and medically impossible for it to happen, but it did. I kept our secret.

He forgave me to lessen my burden. He did it for me and not for him. That was the greatest gift he could give me.

Weeks later, the pain was not less but I was learning to manage it. My family grieved but we tried to cope because there was nothing else to do. We carried on and pushed forward.

His last words were all about forgiveness and acceptance. Teaching me to forgive myself and acceptance of something that no one could change.

I honor him by forgiving myself when I am being my worst critic. I honor him by forgiving others when they have made a mistake because I know we all do the best we can with what we have. That includes me.

Years later as I was walking down a hospital corridor to visit a friend, a man came around the corner suddenly and bumped into me. He startled me because I had been walking with my head down, once again deep in my own thoughts of failure and anxiety about a mistake I had recently made.

I apologized as I stepped back and started to walk around him. felt his hand on my arm. I looked up and gasped. He had my brother’s eyes and smile. He could have been his twin except for his blonde hair. My brother had black hair.

“It’s OK. Everything is fine and he’s good,” he said and walked away.

I leaned against the wall to catch my breath. I had a million questions for that stranger, but knew to not question what had just happened and to accept it for what it was — something I can’t explain but believe nonetheless.

I once again felt my burden leave and love for myself return.

I smiled and continued to walk down the corridor with my head up and a light heart.