I stared at the stainless steel walls. Stainless steel in a hospital made sense because it is a metal inhospitable to germs. Nothing else at the moment made any sense. On the inside I cried out to the Lord. I didn’t know where to go from here. Darrell and I had been together for such a short time. It was our fourth wedding anniversary and I remembered well running this very scenario through my mind the night before I got married, wondering if I wanted to marry a man six years older. I reasoned then that none of us know how much time we have on this earth so it was better to love than to miss out on it. I knew anything could happen at any time. But in the vision I had, we were going to live happily ever after to the ripe old age of ninety something. Of course, there is never enough time when you love someone.
We never really think about our mortality until faced with it. And even now, I refused to accept it. There had to be something that could be done to reverse this. Hadn’t the Doctor said that they had made great strides in the medical filed in the area of cancer? Didn’t he mention experimental drugs, procedures, and surgery? But my greatest fear, outside of losing Darrell, was the thought this might be a long, lengthy, lingering illness for him and I would have to nurse him through to the end. Could I do it? Did I have the strength? Would I spend most of my time cowering in bathrooms?
We all choose different survival tools. I had just recently returned to my spiritual upbringing. I had been praying all through this. I never asked why. It was a waste of time. I always thought, why not? Why not me? Everyone has to go through life experiencing some type of pain. So rather than ask why not, my motto had always been what now? How could we move beyond this moment? What would this journey teach me?
I pulled myself up by my boot straps. Wiped away the tears. Prayed to Father God to give me strength and direction. Most of all I prayed for a sign that things would be okay. I had been gone for an hour and a half.
With new resolve drug up out of a reserve I didn’t know I had, I headed back to his room. His sister had come to see him while I was out. The lines around Darrell’s eyes relaxed and a tentative smile turned up the corners of his mouth.
“Are you okay?” he asked hesitantly.
I stared at him. How could he be asking me if I was okay after he had gotten news like that? I should be asking about how he felt, consoling him! His sister was staring out the same window I had just a while ago. I could guess what was going on inside her head.
“I’m fine,” I said, “just needed a break, that’s all.”
“You ran out of here so fast you scared the doctor. He asked me if it was something he said.”
“Oh yeah, it was something he said alright,” I responded wryly. But I could feel the emotional storm rising again. “I just couldn’t stand the thought of him cutting into you,” I choked out.
His eyebrows rose, a frown crinkling the skin on his forehead. Puzzlement shone in his eyes. “What? Don’t you hear this stuff every day at work?”
“Well, yes, but when it comes to being one of my loved ones getting cut on, or hurting, I can’t take it. I have too much empathy for them.”
My favorite ornery grin transformed his features. “Nice to know you care. For a moment there I thought you might not be coming back.”
His sister turned away from the window. “He really was worried.”
The rising emotional storm turned into disbelief. How could he think I would leave him?
“Honey, I just couldn’t take the ‘cut you this way, or cut you that’ way statement. I’m not leaving you. I love you.”
“Well you better explain that to the Doctor. You really shook him up when you ran out. They are going to do surgery on Tuesday. But first I have to have a blood transfusion. ”
As we discussed the schedule for the next two days, I thought to myself how brave and calm he seemed to be in comparison to me. Darrell accepted his fate commonly and reassured us things were going to be fine. As he said, there was nothing else he could do about it, so no need to worry about it.
This was a side I had never seen of him. As his confidence calmed me an odd little thought crossed my mind. This was how heroes were made.