You had been in and out of the hospital so much that summer and even into the fall that I honestly shouldn't have been so shocked the day you told me you were dying. I was headed home for Fall Break from school to see you, again, at Maine Medical Center. When I walked into your hospital room that night, you said, "we have to wait for your brother to get here, and then I'll go over what the doctor said today." Tom lives in Connecticut, and you called him to come home. This was bad news. I never told you, but I curled up into a ball on the floor in a bathroom down the hallway and cried by myself until a nurse heard me and came in.
And I thought it was nerve-wrecking waiting to perform at a high school cheering competition? Are you kidding me? Nothing in my life will ever compare to the nerves I had when my brother walked in, and the room fell silent. I sat facing you on your hospital bed, my left hand clenching your right one. Somehow (probably thanks to the ridiculous amount of drugs they were pumping through your body) you didn't even shed a tear when you told us you would be ending your chemo treatments and living out the rest of your life in whatever way you could. Did I cry? I couldn't tell you. All I could hear and feel was the deafening sound of my heart beating. Or maybe it was breaking. A life without you, my best friend, seemed like no life at all.
I later ended up in the hallway on the phone. Who did I call? What did I say? It's all a blur. I just remember the endless tears for the next several hours. Earlier that day I told you that we were going to have a sleepover, and even though everything was different now- much scarier now- I still kept my promise. But I didn't sleep a wink. I just waited for you to stop breathing all night. I can't put into words how happy I was that you looked over at me in the morning with that big smile of yours. You were still alive. Little did I know that those anxious feelings that literally made me tremble day in and day out would never cease while you were so ill. My heart constantly felt like it was ready to burst.
When Tom got there I went home to get a chance to talk to Dad alone. I needed the reassurance that, although you would leave us eventually, I would still have years with you to learn all there was to know about adulthood. When I got home I realized I had just missed him, so I called him instead while he was on his way to see you. He told me you really had between two days and two months left to live. Not years. Two days. How can they go from telling you one week that you're getting healthier, and then that you might be dead within 48 hours the next? I'll never understand that, and I hated them for it.
I also pretty much hated our Hospice nurse. Okay, okay, I didn't hate her. She was good for some things... like for giving you medicine and for telling me I should start writing about my experiences (which I did, and I'll post here and there eventually). But, yeah, that was pretty much it. Just the thought of sitting in a room for the first time with someone from Hospice was overwhelming to me. This was such a reality check. You were really going to die. And the way she threw around that topic like she was discussing what she ate for lunch was appauling to me. I wanted to kick her out. Or just plain kick her. I wasn't really sure. But in all honesty, looking back on it now, I pity her for being so comfortable with a life filled with death that meeting us didn't even phase her. She probably couldn't even tell you my name (which, ironically, I couldn't tell you hers either. Dad and I always debated whether she was saying Mary or Maria... so maybe that's not a good example!). But seriously, you had nurses fighting over you because you were such a great patient, and that woman just acted like you were another check off her to-do list when her alloted time was up. I have the utmost respect for her role, but none for her and her extreme lack of tact. Your nurses at MMC, however, now they were amazing. They made your time in the Gibson wing bearable. What more could we ask for?
Well, I could think of a thing or two.