So far in the story, I have to say that what I am about to share was probably part of the hardest. I have only shared it with a few loved ones, and even now, I struggled with how much to share, and how to tell the story. I hope you will bear with me.
On Sunday, it was now the 23rd of August. I had several friends pop in to visit before they returned to college. Each time one of them left I longed to be able to get up to go with them. My best friend Lisa had already been up to visit and had given me a beautiful gold chain, which I had always given to only my closest loved ones as a gift. At the time, I had seen it as something they could have close to their heart that would remind them of me when they wore it. Lisa knew my thinking, and I can remember opening the slender brown box and being overwhelmed with emotion. So many of my friends were on this journey with me.
But I also felt that I had a few other people in my corner that were no longer with us. My aunt Mary, my mother's sister was also my godmother. When I was growing up, she was the type of aunt who always had suckers for the nieces and nephews, and gum in her purse, a habit that I continued as I got older. She was one of those genuine people that you come across rarely in your lifetime that seems to touch everyone. She was kind, compassionate, and always giving to others. When I was 12 she passed away after fighting cancer for a few years. She had just gotten married the year before, and I can remember her having a great sadness that she would never have children. I always felt that she was with me at various times in my life, but I also remembered how close she was with my mother, and how devestated my mother was when she passed away. It was another reason I was not sharing all my information with my mother, I thought at the time the less she knew the better.
And just a few months previous to me landing in the hospital, my cousin, Shelly had passed away, and her close friends were now visiting me and telling me they were sure she was helping me out from above. We had all been so distraught when she died, and I am sure it was hard for some of them to come see me in the same hospital where Shelly had passed away.
On my rest Sunday, Lisa had come to see me before heading back home, and being one of my best friends at the time, she let me know how upsetting it was to my mother that I would often be telling her to go for a walk, or to go back to the hotel. Funny eh? I thought I was protecting her by not making her sit there all the time looking at my failing body, and she had thought that I just did not want her around. Everyone's perception of things can be so different.
During this "great" day of rest, I really didn't rest much. How could I? Tomorrow I would be doing yet another procedure that could both save or end my life. As the day wore on, I almost did not want it to end. What if the transplant did not work? What if my heart stopped during the transplant, something that the doctor had said could happen? What if this was my last night here among the living? I was in an agitated state as "bedtime" approached and I knew that my parents would be leaving for the night. I was still falling asleep and waking up, not knowing what day it was, and always at first wondering if I had just had the worst nightmare ever. My body, by this time, was in great discomfort. Not many minutes went by where I wasn't throwing up, my eyebrows had now fallen out as well, and some of my fingernails were as well. My skin felt like it was on fire in certain places, and my hips and back were still sore from the biopsies. To say that I was a mess was a great understatement. The other problem that I was having already was that my hickman line was not flowing so greatly all the time, and I would often lay on my right side just to take the pressure of the lines off my body. I now had about 14 bags of various medications and nutrients hanging on poles beside the bed. I now know that many who came to see me at this point left wondering if and when I would die.
It was in this confused, kind of dazed state that the priest came to see me to do my last rites and confession. Mom and Dad sat there during the rites, saying some parts that they knew from memory, and sitting in silence as the priest anoited me. As a parent now I understand what that must have been like for them, and I am sure that they probably went to the hallway during my last confession and held each other while they cried.
I really did not have much to give the priest, as a last confession goes, mine was probably kind of weak. I had regrets more than actual sins. I regretted not being a better daughter and sister at times, I think I confessed that I probably cursed more than God would like, and that I sometimes talked about people in a mean way. The priest told me to say a few Our Fathers and Hail Marys, and then he asked me if I was scared. It was then that I confessed that I was terrified, and that I was scared everytime I fell asleep that I would never wake up. He told me to pray to God for comfort and that he would be with me during the procedures, I just had to remember that.
I fell asleep as the priest left, I guess he did his job well. When I woke up I was again laying on my right side, facing towards the door, with my back to the large reclining chair that was by the window behind me. As I woke up I knew that there was someone there with me, and I thought it was Mom or Dad who had come back in when I had been asleep. I asked who was there, but no one answered....maybe they had fallen asleep too. The room was now dark except for the glow of the lights from the bathroom and the hallway. I didn't care who was there, or if they were asleep, everything all at once came pouring out of me. I told them how scared I was to die, and that I had so many things I wanted to do with my life, I told them how I wanted to go home to see my Nanny in her kitchen, and how I thought it was even a crying shame that I had never loved someone enough to even lose my virginity. I wanted to live, I wanted to fall in love, and I wanted to not be sick any more.
The best way I can describe what happened next is to tell you that I have never had anything happen like that before, and I have never experienced it again since. At that moment, laying in the bed, and feeling totally helpless I felt totally surrounded by love. It felt like the whole room was glowing, and I was so overwhelmed with love that I started crying. And I knew it was love from God, but I also felt like it was love from people I knew, like Mary, and Shelly, and others, like my Grandfathers, who had passed away before I was even born. And I knew in that instant, that even if I died, everything would be okay. I knew for sure there was a heaven, that is filled with love and compassion, and it was all I needed to know. I could feel a calm totally descend on me, and that calm stayed with me in the coming days, well, lol, most of the days. Even now, I know without a doubt in my mind that miracles happen, and that there is a heaven. I am blessed with that knowledge, and with the knowledge that life can be very short. That has been a wonderful gift, and has made me live my life with more appreciation.
As I lay there, still talking Dad came in the door, and asked who I was talking to? I said I thought it was him or mom. No, Mom was talking to one of the nurses outside. Well, I said, someone had been there, so he went out to ask the nurse. No one could come in my room without being buzzed in the main doors of the unit. No one had come in or out since the priest left they said. But I knew otherwise, someone or something had been there for me in my time of need.
Tomorrow would be transplant day, and I was ready.