can change in a moment, life can change so slowly over time you can’t comprehend how it happened, and life can end in a second.
My Christmas was unexpected, terrifying and glorious all rolled into one giant ball of chaos. Food was perhaps the farthest thing from my mind.
I have talked many times about my family, my father has been gone for over 10 years, all of my grandparents have passed on and my mother has no brothers or sisters, I have no brothers or sisters and my Dad’s sister passed away last year in her 90’s. My grandmother has one living sister, my Aunt Hazel. Other than my mom and some cousins she is the last living relative I have. I am 40 years old. This terrifies me. Being alone, dying alone, it is a fear so great I don’t think about it unless the universe throws a reality pie in my face and I am unable to escape the bitter slap it leaves behind.
My Aunt Hazel has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, always kind, steel blue eyes and the spitting image of my grams as she lay in a hospital bed on Christmas day. We got the call that they had transported her to the hospital from the nursing facility she resides at where she is queen of bingo, reese cups and loves to have her nails painted. My mother goes every Sunday after church to visit her. I go less, I am not as strong as my mom and the memories of my years spent in a nursing home with my Dad make it at times unbearable to look into the sea of lost eyes, confused minds and failing bodies. I love my Aunt Hazel and the person she is, the person she was… when did that happen and when did I become to busy to notice?
They couldn’t find the bleeding so they couldn’t stop the bleeding and the surgeon called my house just as we were finishing Christmas dinner. When did surgeons start making personal calls to families…ON CHRISTMAS? Later I would find out this is no ordinary doctor. We were headed to the hospital and our dear friends Mel and Bob did not hesitate for a second to come with mom and I, to be there, to support us and it would remind me that “family” is not defined by blood or titles, family runs much deeper than that, it is also reserved for the people who love you without question, love you without judgement, and love you selflessly expecting nothing in return. My family is infinite.
We get to the hospital and Aunt Hazel is a tiny speck in a very large bed, she has wild coarse grey hair, those red painted nails and the sweetest of grins. She looks at us when we arrive with such appreciation, such kindness and such love. They are giving her blood as fast as they can infuse it into her IV, they give her 7 bags they give her 4 bags of plasma and it’s not enough, they can’t stop the bleeding and she will die without surgery…at 88 she might die with the surgery. It’s 5:30am when they let us know she will be prepped to have emergency surgery, they have no choice. We wait. Here are some words I write about her as I am sitting by her bed watching her sleep…
“As I sit here I am in awe of the beauty of your 88 years. The wrinkles upon your face tell a thousand stories each line deeper than the next all connected in a maze that defines the footprint you will leave on this world. In your watery blue eyes are the memories of a million sights as days have bled into years and a lifetime later you have seen the world like no one else, walked your path like no one else. loved us like no one else. You are wise beyond comprehension.”
She is the most beautiful person in the room, and as we watch her sleep I am so glad to be there, to share in the stillness of that moment and whatever the next moments bring.
Surgery takes a long time, but finally our “waiting for a table at Red Lobster” like device beeps and whirls with lights telling us there is news. We are escorted to a room to meet with the surgeon, and in just a few moments she appears to tell us the good news. The news however is not so good, but I am amazed at this young doctor who gives us the information in the kindest, gentlest way imaginable. She draws a picture on her clipboard to show us what she is referring to, at the same time not making us feel like morons as she talks about the digestive tract and what she had to cut, manipulate, close, rearrange and dissect to make things function and give my Aunt the best possible chance. She looked at us, listened to us and graciously answered all the questions we asked, laughed WITH us (not at us) and gave the honest truth… It is a long shot, there is a very high probability she will bleed again. I have been around a lot of doctors, and surgeons, my Dad had 8 surgeries I can remember and the experiences were not like that one. Ah right, this was the surgeon that took the time to call the house on Christmas evening to talk my mom personally, to explain, to answer questions, to comfort the family of an elderly woman who was brought in from a nursing home. She cares.
Dr. Durrani was the best Christmas gift we could have received. When we left Aunt Haze earlier today in the ICU she was doing well…better than we thought, and no matter what happens she was blessed on Christmas to be surrounded by loving family and friends, caring nurses and one amazing surgeon. As I left tonight I leaned over and kissed her on the forehead, she gave me one of those sweet toothless grins and whispered as she has many times before “try to be good”….yep she is doing just fine.