Today I took my co-worker to the ER. Her name is Teresa and I don’t think she knows that I have a blog. I don’t think she would mind me using her name, and her story. But just in case, I’ll keep her story short.
Teresa went to the ER because her arm and neck were swollen. Teresa also has cancer. Any ailment, no matter how small, holds a different significance when your body is weaker than normal. So I drove her to the ER. I waited with her while they took her blood and an EKG. Her blood pressure is normal. She’s not allergic to anything. Medical history? Well, the cancer thing. I learned more about her in that 30 minutes than most people ever learn about their close friends.
I left when her daughter arrived. “She’s my work daughter,” Teresa explained to the nurse when the nurse wondered who the hell I was. I’d never thought of it that way. But, yes, statistically, I had to be that. I’m the youngest person in my office. I didn’t know what to think of the swelling neck…it was my boss who, concerned, ordered Teresa to the ER.
My co-worker did have a blood clot today. I just learned this. She was given blood thinners.
I walked out of the hospital today and I cried. I knew, the minute that I stepped foot in the waiting room, that I would have to cry later. There, I was collecting the heaviness of strangers. Every sadness that had nothing to do with me seeped deep into my pores. I joked with a woman I worked with in a way that you should never joke with anyone. The last time I was in an emergency room…
I thought “I don’t like hospitals,” as I took deep breaths, eyes averted once the blood drawing and heart monitoring began. Then I thought that maybe I was just a huge asshole. No one likes hospitals. Jesus. I felt young and naive and helpless and my co-worker, calmly explaining her symptoms, was so far away. How could anyone be that brave?
Today I was concerned, mainly, with what I was going to eat for lunch. I was worried about making it to my yoga class. I hoped that I could pick up my new computer this evening.
What do I say? Live life to the fullest? Count your blessings? God, I don’t even know. All I know is that today, for five full minutes, I cried into my hands in my car on a 70 degree day in Charleston, SC. I don’t want my temporary sadness to stand for the real life struggle of my strong and brave co-worker.
So I’ll wait. I will watch her live as she has been living. Work as she has been working. We will talk about her daughter’s classes and her sister’s big house. As calmly as she speaks to the nurse she will speak to me, explaining that, yes, we do file that document, and no, we don’t usually scan that one.
Life is what happens after you cry in your car. Life is not deciding what to do with yourself, but figuring out how to tell everyone you love that you love them. Do that. Do that right now. Call your mother or your father or a friend you barely know. Tell them: “I love you.”
I love you. I mean it. I love you.