Monday, July 18, 2011

Space and Time

I am currently thinking about my world of this hospital and the country of this room.  As the days pass and I bring back changes of clothes, switch books, bring cards, and newspapers, the room fills with the personalized detritus of my existence in the corner of the room under the windows. 

When I am in the room, I look at the bed, and my mother, or I look out the window at the trees and roofs of buildings.  At night, when I look out the window, I can see the lights in the windows of other rooms on the other wing of the hospital, with other people looking back out, just like me.

When T was here we explored on foot the realms of the unknown, beyond the hospital and discovered Lake Michigan was a 5 block walk from the hospital.  6 blocks in the other direction we found a diner with real malted milk shakes and homemade hamburger patties.

The temperature was mild and pleasant when T was here.  Now he's departed, the weather has gone hot. Very. 

Photo Credit: Steve Hall of Hedrich Blessing
Today it will feel like Mars, with a heat index of 109 F, so I'm doubting I'll walk outside.   I'll walk instead, inside the hospital to get my exercise, today.   It's huge, this building and feels a bit like one of the ancient Egyptian temples in Luxor.

The hospital lobby is immense (natural light - three stories high) and filled with the sound of a huge waterfall. 

There's a baby grand player piano that plays everything from classical to jazz and plays the acoustics of the hall very nicely.

It sometimes feels more like a hotel lobby than a hospital. This feeling is fostered by the entry having a Concierge Desk, and Valet Parking.

The one constant to remind you that you are in a hospital though, is the food.

It is consistent and mediocre: a daily "hot lunch", high carb, everything slightly overcooked- as well as the alternate choice of a nice greasy  grill with all the sandwiches prepared thereon and a deep fry with the french fries, onion rings and deep fried chicken bits to go along with it. Everything is topped off  with a selection of sweets:  brownies, cakes, pies, puddings ice cream bars, not from a bakery exactly, but sort of...

There's also the standard pizza oven with the (of course) Chicago style pizza.

So.  This is the beginning of the third week in this Palliative Care unit.  I feel sometimes like it has been months.

My mother still looks amazing, though she's thinner and seemingly more transparent than she has been to this point.  Her skin is still lovely and unlined (how did she managed to avoid wrinkles?)

When she opens her eyes, she sees past or through the nurses, but when she looks at me, there is a touch of her old expressions.

For the last several days those expressions have been limited to "pathos" and, last night, an intense look she gave me when she was trying to cough and having some difficulty breathing. 

She doesn't talk anymore, though she sighs and on occasion moans, as if to say "Ohhhh."

It has occurred to me that this special unit of the hospital isn't just for my mother, but for me as well.  They are very supportive and caring of me.  They are treating me as if I was a part of the process.  They hug me and bring me treats from their homes.  (Carol brought me homemade trail mix; Helen snapped up a piece of pastry from the nurses station.  Angie calls in to check on our status on her day off.)  They all have time to talk with me and some of them share their own stories and personal losses.  They are caregivers in the truest sense.  They recognize my pain and they reach out to try and help.

"Grief drives men into habits of serious reflection, sharpens the understanding, and softens the heart."   John Adams


  1. Jes I've been reading your posts over the last three days with such sadness, and wondering what on earth I could say to you at such a difficult time.

    I think I know how you are feeling because I did the same thing with my beloved father. The time seems almost to stop in that place...or rather you seem to lose a sense of time and reality.

    There aren't many words to say really, only that I was so glad I was there for my father at the end of his life...and you will, like me, take great comfort from that when te time comes.

    Sending you lots of love xx

  2. Dear Linda,

    You are right about taking comfort from being able to be with her now. I take a great deal of comfort from that and tho it's exhausting and just plain hard to do sometimes, it's a privilege and a blessing.

    Thank you for writing - it's so hard to write and know what to say. (but your message is much appreciated!)




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