Chris paced between the living room and kitchen, reacting to the words being spoken to him on the other end of his cell phone line. The quiet tone of his voice fed my fears, adding to my nervous anticipation of what I hoped and prayed wouldn’t be true. And then, as if on cue, he mouthed to me the words, “I need surgery again.”
I began wringing my hands together and pacing the floor. Aimlessly, I made my way downstairs then back up again, all the while verging on hyperventilating. Tears strewn down my cheeks and sobs choked forth from my throat.
Words and phrases like: Oh wow; Really?; Oh my gosh; OK…exited my husband’s lips in response to what he was being told. Words that only made worse the scenario my imagination was quickly conjuring. Then suddenly, “Ok, Amanda. Thank you.” He hung up the phone and met me, silently, in the living room where I had sunken into the chair. My knees supporting the weight of my elbows, my face in my hands. And it was then and there that I came undone. He sat facing me on the ottoman and held me tight in his arms and the only words I could speak were, “I don’t want to lose you, I don’t want to lose you.” Over and over and over again I sobbed that fear out loud. My cries rang through the house.
Chaotic thoughts pummeled at me relentlessly showing me no mercy. I couldn’t defend myself. Looking at the blinds and seeing the darkness behind them, I feared for my husband’s life. I grieved my children’s lost childhood as I listened to them play upstairs, still oblivious to the storm brewing up around them. The light in our entryway grew blurry through my tears and I began shouting the word, “No,” as I was crippled by another wave of fear, laced with disbelief. I clung to Chris’s shirt, clenching the fabric of it in my fists and pulling him toward me. I cried out that I needed him. I couldn’t live without him, I didn’t know how.
I desperately craved the ability to go back to how we were, not two weeks before that night. Oblivious and happy. The thought of him going through brain surgery again was unbearable! Actually, the thought of us going through it again was unbearable. I didn’t want to say good-bye to him in Pre-Op. I didn’t want to see him all bandaged up and groggy after nine hours of anesthesia. I didn’t want to see the staples in his head afterward. I didn’t want to wonder if he was alright everyday. I didn’t want to wake up in the night listening for the sound of his breath or watching for the rise and fall of his chest with each inhalation and exhalation. I didn’t want to have to wonder if he’d come out of brain surgery the same man I had said, “See ya later” to earlier that morning. It would all happen again, though. No matter how hard I kicked and screamed about it, it would happen…The hospital. The hospital room. The dried blood on his arms from the IVs. The IVs. The hospital gowns. The smell of hospital hand soap. The linoleum floor. I wanted none of it. And, truth be told, I didn’t want to have that spot on the radar of all the people around us as that family with this thing going on in their lives with not much else to talk about ever besides it and how we are and how he is. Because that wasn’t normal and I so desired normal.
Chris held me and comforted me as all the memories of the first time came charging toward us. I had no time to brace for impact. I squeezed my arms around him so tightly, afraid to let go for fear it would get worse or I’d lose him right then and there or lose myself, even. All I felt was numbness. He told me it would be OK, but I didn’t believe him. Every time he told me it would be OK, I told him it wouldn’t. I disagreed with him over and over again each and every time. How would it possibly be OK? I was inconsolable. I was in the midst of the worst night of my life. You might think the night of his seizure, two years prior, was the worst night of my life, but not anymore. I was still naive and didn’t know what was happening then. Ignorance is most certainly bliss. That night of the seizure has since secured second place.
My greatest fear had arrived. All of the positive thinking we’d done during the previous 10 days to convince ourselves that there was a (different) logical explanation for his headaches and vision trouble was all for not. We filled our brains with a false sense of security enough to prevent us from losing our heads. We’d made ourselves believe, only to be terribly and painfully let down. This would be the first of many let downs. My hopeful innocence was being stolen away with each passing hour.
When we pulled it together enough to call our parents, I felt like I was floating. I couldn’t feel my body as I stood by our front door and told my mom in a voice that barely had sound attached to it. I was comforted hearing my mom’s calm voice on the line. She was being strong for me. She received the news and admitted she hadn’t believed it would come to this. None of us had. And she told me she loved me. A mother’s love eases the blow, but that was one of those times in life when even a phone call to mom can’t fix it. Nothing could fix it. Nothing would wake us of that nightmare because it was real. Then without warning the anger arrived. Gone for the moment was my sadness, shock and hysteria. It was like my face tightened and a cold hardness came over me.
That evening at bedtime, we mustered love, encouragement and as much normalcy as we could to our boys, even though we’d wait to tell them the news. We offered them sweet dreams as we tucked them in. I’d hoped that same energy would fill the rest of the house. What was left of that night was a blur of emotions and uncertainties, save from our spot on the couch where we began sharing the news with our close friends via text message. So many of them had joined us in our corner as we waited for an answer and the verdict of what would happen next.
Words of concern, encouragement, love and prayer lit up our phones without pause. A handful of friends attending a class at church that night received the news together. From one, we were offered the verse of scripture, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Repeating that silently in my mind was what eventually allowed me sleep that night.
Some notes of apology arrived the following morning along with confessions from friends who had not been able to find words to speak the night before. Anger, profound sadness and utter disbelief were common feelings among those closest to us.
I understood the absence of words. There weren’t really any to speak at this point.