I no longer remember how many days and nights I sat by his side through the night. He told me – please don’t leave me alone. For the first time in his life – in the life we shared – he was truly afraid. My mother was tired and sleeping a lot. In the early evening she would leave the medical center, walk outside, hurry across the busy street and return to our hotel room. There she would nibble on something small, drink a glass of wine, and try to pretend none of this could possibly be happening to her fairy tale prince.
On the good nights – I would massage his hands and feet, place cool washcloths on his forehead, and listen to him talk. On the bad nights, I would gather my wits about me and make friends with whomever was on the floor who could help us make it through the night. And at some point – usually an hour or two before dawn, he would sleep, and I would sleep, and in that delicious sleep – we steeled ourselves for another day.
At dawn the shift would change, new relationships to negotiate, new friends to make, and my mother would come. She would beg me to stay. Please stay until the Doctors make rounds. Please stay until he is stable. Please stay until… and then it would be evening and the cycle began again.
One day – as I slipped out of his room to get a breath of fresh air – I was startled to see my brother’s fiance. She said “I didn’t want to interfere. I know he treasures his privacy. Is there anything I can do for you?” And in that moment I nearly collapsed from that small kindness. After weeks of hospital food – she went out and bought me a favorite treat and delivered it to me. As I ate it, I felt filled with love and knew I would have the strength to face another night.
Three years removed, the comfort of that simple act still fills my heart with love and comfort. In a time of unspeakable pain and grief – I learned that a small act of compassion makes a monumental difference.
Jill – sister of my heart. I love you.