Flower for an hour

Illness is treated very differently through our lives as well as throughout the world with factors such as age or social habits taken into consideration when dealing with patients. A sick baby attracts more attention than someone in their late twenties, and propriety begs you visit a bedridden octogenarian even if their illness will automatically induce nods and morbid predictions. So if it’s all a matter of decorum or pre-determined fears, where does love fit in the sick world?

Having been in the sick bed recently, I was able to observe the visiting traffic from the opposite perspective, to analyse the different interactions illness provoked in front of me. First, to make things clear, I was in a two-bed hospital room. I therefore wasn’t alone and had to endure frequent visits from strangers coming to celebrate the ongoing life of my neighbours – how riveting.
First, there was a young lady who had just given birth; her friends and family catwalked right past my bed all day bringing flowers and nibbling on chocolate and whatever her husband had spread for the occasion. Conversation was basic, no intrigue, no passion moved their lips except when the offered candy graced their tongues – I’d visit patients every day if I knew I’d be rewarded with food!
Then, when mother and child were given the green signal, an elderly woman replaced her in the white sheets opposite the room. Accompanying her were her son and daughter, both probably in their sixties, alternating smile and pensive pout, worried what the future held for the matriarch of the family. They had no visitors, choosing to remain within the tight bonds of blood, communicating the same banalities they usually exchanged, “did you talk to x?”, “what’s the name of that honey you bought?”. They knew the risks, repeated her age to whoever asked what was wrong, nodded…she’s old, we all know what to expect.

Come to think of it, we deal with illness the way we deal with a beautiful flower bouquet: we hold it carefully, lay it down slowly, talk about it, photograph it with pride…then after a few days, our grip gets more careless, we change the water less often, we don’t talk about it much anymore because we know it won’t last long. We sometimes hang it to dry, stare at the withered petals with affection, nostalgia, and if bugs start clinging to it, we simply throw it away, unfazed. I was a flower bouquet this week, and somehow, I was put in a pot. You don’t take pictures of potted flowers, they’re here to stay, safe…as long as you water them.

White bedding

I had my first surgery ever 3 days ago. I had never been admitted to hospital before, never been cut up or sliced open, never been injected with strange liquids and probed with utensils I wasn’t conscious to inspect or approve. 3 days ago, my safe space was broken into, but my armor found itself strengthened; I survived.

I didn’t have major surgery, my condition wasn’t life-threatening, but I had no choice but to take the leap: say yes to the scalpel and no to this malevolent parasite eating me up from the inside. I admit, I cried a bit, I couldn’t help some lonely tears from trickling down my cheeks as the anesthetics took over my body and shut down all will power I had. I knew that I’d wake up a few hours later weaker, different…brand new maybe? Alas, I didn’t feel all shiny and fresh as I emerged from my foggy state; I felt tired, confused, old and most importantly…stuck. I wasn’t allowed to move, to eat, or do anything natural to my wellbeing. I was instead haunted by needles and nurses with charts, neon lights and an overdose of white. The aftermath. Long hours staring into space, falling asleep and waking in a start, pain everywhere, with nothing familiar to cling to.

I didn’t tell many people about this journey I had been forced to embark on, just a few friends and of course my parents. Visitors flooded the floor with armfuls of flowers and chocolate boxes, balloons and get well soons, and I watched them through my heavy eyelids as they entered other rooms, hugged other patients, kept them company while I composed yet another poem on how white everything was in this antiseptic world. I didn’t crave the applause, the screams and the crowds, I didn’t need all the attention or joyful pity, I simply wanted the nightmare to be over, to be home in bed or in a prairie skipping rope, to be anywhere but in this helpless state at the mercy of unknown arms.

I have often dreamt up situations where the love around me would be put to the test, where those who enjoyed my laughs would do anything to wipe away my tears. I somehow forgot to imagine my own hand holding the tissues, pulling me up saying: this is your test, stop waiting for the world to take it for you.