I am writing this so that you will not forget…so that you will have something to hold onto when she is not near…and to help you keep the promise you made…..
It is morning, and I am not sure why I am anxious. I have arranged to go to the hospital to spend time with L. Her sister is not doing well and she is in need of a friend. I do not like hospitals, especially this one, and I try to work out my emotions so I don’t infringe on L’s.
I arrive at the ward bare. I am open to everything that can happen. I am a rock. I will not crumble. I will be the strength L needs. I will not fall.
I walk into the room in silence. The bed is surrounded. There is barely room to stand. There she is, the most beautiful soul I have ever seen, orchestrating this moment from her throne of pain. Everyone can feel her. She is so present that it is hard to find L, standing across from her, staring with a need so great I am momentarily overwhelmed.
I gently take L’s hand and squeeze. “She’s beautiful”, I say. L smiles and nods her head.
The hours pass slowly. People come in and out, saying their goodbyes. I check on the angel occasionally. She seems to be stable, there is no change for hours. She is hanging in there.
By eleven I start to see the struggle. There is so much love and attention in the room. There is so much to live for. There is so much more to do. She is torn between two worlds….and it is hurting her.
It is time to say goodbye. It is time to start the process of letting go.
L and I speak about it for a few minutes, then she sits beside her sister and begins.
“It’s ok sweetie, you don’t have to hurt anymore.” Her voice is broken. “You don’t have to fight. You’re ok. You’re going to be ok. You don’t have to be in pain. There will be no more pain. I love you. Everyone loves you. There are so many people here who love you. You’re not alone. Don’t be afraid.” There is a catch in her throat and the sobs escape in a rush of pure sorrow and fear.
I take L’s hand and coax her outside.
“Walk with me,” I say. “Just for a bit. Just down the hall. Show me you can move on.”
Her body is protesting. She can’t move. Slowly, we take a few steps.
“L, can you tell her you will be ok? She’s holding on. She’s afraid to go. She knows it will be better. She knows where she wants to be. But what about you? Will you be ok?”
L shrugs. “I’ll be ok.”
There is no truth in it.
I turn to her with all the strength I can muster and I become a giant.
“I promise you I will not leave. I promise you I will be here for you always. I promise I will take care of you. Now, promise me that you will let me do that.”
I look her in the eye and repeat my words with a force that will not let her go.
L gazes at me with her soul and whispers, “I can promise that I will try….I will try to let you help me….” and she begins to cry again.
“We can go back now,” I say as we turn towards the room.
The air is different now. It is charged with a sense of time. Every second is counted with beeping machines. It is too much. There is no peace in fear.
The nurses take the machines away. No one needs to keep track. There cannot be a countdown.
After midnight the emotions run high. Feelings are spoken of freely. There is a strong support surrounding L. She is loved.
We are going back and forth every few minutes now. We check up, ask for updates…prepare.
The room is bright – the lights will not be shut tonight. Darkness is the unknown. Darkness is goodbye.
There is a silent shout from the hallway.
We run. Urgently.
She is breathing quickly. She is racing through her last moments. She wants to go.
L takes her hand and lets her go.
She breathes in and exhales…and is still.
In no pain at all.
L, with the strength of all who love her holding her up, walks out of the room, looking back once more as the light that is her sister flickers and fades into a pocket in her heart, safe and secure, forever.
And I walk on….L’s hand in mine…and feel angels surrounding me, guiding me, as we break down and mourn.
Sara Deena Rachel Bat Yehudit…..you gave me something I never knew I had…you showed me what it means to be strong…fearless…and safe…for someone else…who needed me.