(This draft has been sitting around for close to a year. I finally decided to go ahead and publish it. These are reflections on the things I learned after living in the hospital for six months with my critically ill child. Forgive me that they’re a little gloomy.)
1.I’ve glimpsed hell. And I’ve learned that it’s possible to walk through it and come out alive.
Before you do it, it seems impossible. But you can survive it.
I didn’t have to walk into the darkest depths of the inferno — actually losing my child — but I did come very close, and I’ve seen other families do it.
And somehow, despite what it felt like at the time, we survived.
2. Hospitals are truly horrible places to spend any amount of time. But they are full to the brim with wonderful people.
I have never met so many smart, interesting, kind, devoted people in one place as I met in the hospital.
I want to give a special shout-out to nurses, who are some of the most superhumanly kind and selfless people on the planet. Turns out, you simply don’t go into nursing if you’re a crappy person. And we all benefit from that.
3. I can do things that I previously believed unfathomable.
I never could have guessed I could hold down my precious, innocent baby and allow people to hurt him.
Not only that, I can hold him down and hurt him myself.
Not only did I have to ignore his cries, I made him cry.
(Inserting Felix’s feeding tube, over and over and over again while he screamed in anguish, was and is the worst thing I have ever had to do in my life. I had to do it so many times. It goes against my every instinct, belief, and philosophy. My entire being is bent on protecting him from harm; and here I was, invading his body, working against his thrashing and screaming. Over and over again.)
If I can do these things, who knows what else I’m capable of — for good or for evil.
Could I sacrifice my own life for someone else? Could I kill a person? Maybe. Nothing seems impossible anymore, under the right circumstances. I now know that I’m capable of anything.
4. Six months in the hospital is not that long a time.
Before I lived it, I would have balked at the idea of staying in the hospital for one month. A whole month of my life spent in a sterile hospital room?
Then we did five. Then we got to go home for a few months; and after that, when we knew we were going in for one more month, we considered that a very short stay. Practically nothing. Just a couple of weeks.
In the long run, those six combined months were a short time in my life.
I know families who have been stuck in the hospital for a year or longer.
My whole perspective on time has changed: really, no amount of time on this finite earth is that long. Nothing we experience here is eternal.
A lifetime isn’t really even all that long.
5. All feelings have a beginning, a middle, and an end.
That current emotion that feels like it’s going to swallow you whole? It won’t. It will end. It will eventually be replaced by another one.
An emotion is an event. It will pass.
Any time I feel like my emotions are going to end me, I remind myself that I can practically put that feeling on a timer: the seconds are ticking away, and that emotion will come to an end. In the end, I will still be standing, but that feeling won’t be.