Out of the three, only the scarf remains
My husband left me on Valentine’s Day in 2014.
It’s not what you think. Yes, he left me, but it was because he had to drive five hours home to tend to an emergency. Which left me at the Cleveland Clinic, alone, for a third day of tests and more overnights.
He was by my side through two blood transfusions, a liver biopsy, and many tests. And now I was without my advocate, my cheerleader.
The sun shines through the window in my 5th floor room, but there’s no warmth, only long shadows.
Hordes of doctors and residents gather around my bed. Their voices a quiet murmur, but words like Pre-leukemia and Wilson’s Disease get my attention. My heart monitor beeps faster.
I search their faces, their expressions. I want to know what they see, what they think of my extreme yellowness, and what they will do to fix my broken body.
They exit en masse and leave behind a vacuum of silence. Dust motes dance in the cold sunbeams.
A knock at the door announces a visitor. It’s the staff chaplain come to see if there’s anything I need.
Let’s see, what do I need? I need answers; I need not to be sick; I need a miracle; I need to go home.
Inside my head.
Out loud, “I’m fine, thanks.”
He takes my hand and says a prayer. My fear melts into hot tears. I cannot hold them in.
He returns a few hours later with a gift. A tin of ginger peach tea. I make a cup, sit by my window, and watch the cars below rush around like ants, so busy. Living their lives.
Another knock, another stranger. A lady volunteer ambles in with a smile and a turquoise vase topped with a red tipped carnation. She places it on my windowsill right next to the tin of tea and says, “This is for you for Valentine’s Day. I hope you feel better soon.”
A second gift from a second stranger. Magic.
Maybe I’ll take a walk in the corridor.
There is an area at the end of my hallway for visitors. I notice a woman crocheting a curly scarf. She tells me her adult son is here for a liver transplant, but it wasn’t a match. They’ve admitted him and are not sure when he can go home.
She’s making scarves to raise money for their medical bills. They’re $10 each. I give her a $20, wishing I had a $50, and tell her to keep the change and the scarf. But she insists I take the scarf, so I do.
I return to my room and wrap it around the flower vase and the tea tin in my windowsill. It’s like a mini-shrine of sorts. An altar to kindness and love.
I get back in bed and stare at the objects sitting in the late afternoon sunlight. The shadows have grown longer, it’s getting late. Time is running out for the day, and for me. And that man. For so many.
In the eight years since that day, the vase and tin disappeared. The scarf I keep.
When I wear it, I think about the miracle of second chances. I think about the strength of love; a mother who does whatever it takes to help her dying son.
And I’m reminded that even on our darkest and loneliest days, the power of kindness, both received and given, can lift and heal broken spirits.