I stood once more by her bedside, but I found myself with no thoughts.
I’d been vulnerable. I’d long given up on being strong.
I held Tootie’s hand openly. Looking searchingly at her face, I became too aware of my thought’s absence.
I’d prayed to gods I desperately hoped exist, and a week later, there is still no change.
Tootie is still comatose. Tootie still has no brain function.
I didn’t know what to expect, visiting her again. I didn’t know how I’d react and I didn’t know how others would react to me.
I had been exposed.
In an attempt to express myself the only way I know how, I inadvertently reached family from far and wide. They read my words, felt my pain and related it to theirs.
I was hugged and thanked, and discovered first-hand that empathy can be painful.
Mother stood on the other side of her, once more stroking her arm.
“Talk to her. We should say something.”
Tears brimmed my eyes and threatened their arrival, yet there stood Mother smiling, coaxing me to speak to Tootie.
Watching Mother cope is difficult. I remain silent and still, only caressing Tootie’s swollen hand.
Mother touches her face and moves closer.
“Wake up, Tootie. Wake up!”
Mother says this, still smiling.
The lump at the back of my throat hardens as I watch Mother.
It was time to go again.
I say goodbye by squeezing Tootie’s foot and walk to the automated door.
Turning back, I see Mother walk around to where I stood and lean in towards her. She’s going to whisper something, I think.
I watch Mother kiss her gently on the cheek, and smile.
When I walked out, I saw no person. I left the ICU, went through the crowd to the fire exit and walked down stairs until there were no longer flights to descend.
Only later that evening, I discovered that my sobbing could be heard from above. I no longer cared who saw or who knew.
My grief would not be suppressed.
I sat on the last stair, with my face buried in my hands. My mind no longer silent, it roared with thoughts that rained down my cheeks.
I felt tears squeeze between my fingers. There was no hiding from the sensation. There was no hiding from this reality.
The image of Mother kissing Tootie’s cheek burned vividly.
But I was haunted by the silence.
No longer did the words “Come on, Tootie” ring desperately in my head.
No longer could I beg her to wake up and smile at us all.
The silence haunted me because I’d known what it meant.
I have not stopped hoping for a miracle. I have not stopped wanting her to come back to us.
I have accepted that this likely won’t happen – that if conditions stay this stagnant, we’re going to lose our Tootie.
Doctors say they will – that things aren’t looking so good and that soon we will have to decide.
I don’t know how long I cried on that stair. I didn’t ask.
My throat ached and my eyes stung by the time they got me, but I could have sat there for hours more.
As we walked out the hospital, her brother put his arm around my shoulders, and I cracked in the safety of his empathetic embrace.
And I stifled the unforgiving thought that had crept into mind.
That soon, they may force me to say goodbye.