the sharp edge of vulnerability: a hard look at love
once those double doors swing open, and the last thing you see is the back of the head of the someone you love, flat on a surgical cart, a bag of clear fluids flowing into a tube into a vein in the arm you’ve held a thousand thousand times, it’s impossible not to feel your knees go a little bit weak. as if the wind has just been whooshed out of them.
so it happened this week. when someone i love, someone i will always love and have loved for more than half of my life, was wheeled off to a surgery that would take less than an hour — though time barely enters the equation when love and goodbye and surgical blades are stirred in the mix.
you surrender. submit to the forces of medicine. pray the surgeon had a good night’s sleep, and a sturdy bowl of oatmeal besides. but mostly, i was washed over in a sense of how precious is every last filament and fiber that is the substance of that someone whose voice, whose story, whose dreams and heartaches i know by heart. i was washed over in knowing i would stand in the way of anything — any thing — that stood to hurt that sweet blessed soul. i found myself picturing him as a young child, how tenderly i would have cared for him, long before knowing he’d become the man to whom i’d wed my life. i leapt forward through time, pictured the thousand frames of moments as he and i have carved this long path that is ours now. pictured the hard choices we’ve made. the moments we’ve wept in pure joy. the hours when silence marked the hard negotiation of the heart and the soul, when humility and a willingness to soften might have been the only thing that saved us, allowed us to move forward again, the pas de deux of a promise made, and promise kept, over and over.
surgery does that. the sharp edge of the scalpel soon to be put to this person you love. waiting rooms too. you sit, fueled on old coffee and cable TV, absorbing snippets of anguish and blessed relief all around you. “fatty growth, totally benign,” you hear from two seats away. the surgeon pulling off his blue paper surgical cap, the son — or the husband, or merely a very close friend; biographies are absent here and don’t much matter, not really — collapsing into the not-so-plush back of his chair. “we’re worried,” someone else whispers, loudly enough that you all but nod in unison, a whole chorus of we’re-worried communion. and when at last you get your own good news, the news that it’s over and all is well, a woman with a wrinkled face and tight-curled hair, hollers across the room, “hallelujah!” she beams, rejoicing right with you. then, as you stand up to unlock your knees, grab your coat and your cold coffee, she closes the moment with this benediction, “have a blessed rest of your day.” and so you stop to kneel down beside her. to echo her prayer in your very own whisper.
love is the thing that saturates every cell of who you are, especially when long cold corridors and locked double doors stand between you and the someone you love. you think hard about the fragile hold you have on this thing called your life. you begin to scan the hours, consider how deeply you take it for granted that morning will come, sheets will be thrown back and the rhythms of day after day will begin all over again.
the sharp edge of love is worth pausing to consider. just yesterday, as i was turning pages in a book, i came across this one declarative sentence: “what she did best was love people.” it prompted me to ask, without pause, in our one simple life is it enough to love and love well?
i thought of that question the whole rest of the day — as i put drops in the eye of the someone i love. as we turned out the lights, and kindled the wicks when dinnertime came, because lights were too bright, lights made it hurt. i thought of that question as i tucked him under the covers, slow-cooked a fine dinner, and snipped and gathered red-berried stems into the old cracked pitcher on the kitchen table. because yesterday i was reminded sharply and in no uncertain terms what a treasure it is to love someone your whole life long, and to love that someone as well as you possibly can.
what does it mean to you to love well? and how did you learn?
Speechless!! Love to you and Blair!! Kisses xx
Sent from my iPhone
xoxoxo! love you back, sweet mar. xox
Dear Famous Writer,
I am a REALLY fast reader and I still had my heart in my mouth rushing through to get to what I prayed was good news. Thank God. As you often do, you put my Friday, the week, and life, in perspective for me once again!
not famous, but very much at home here in this sacred space. good news indeed. but no matter the route to that news, the journey reminds us how sacred, how precious, each step is……
may your weekend be filled with gentleness and peace. xoxox
So glad all went well. Been in that waiting room too many times. Once, when my husband and I were waiting in the oncology waiting room at U of C. he looked around and said that it was too bad all the tense energy everyone was feeling couldn’t be bottled up because it could probably heat the city of Chicago for a week.
oncology waiting rooms are the most awake places i know. the most breathless. those who know that landscape are those who know some of life’s most essential lessons….
Yes. (Heart in mouth.) Hope healing is progressing smoothly. It’s from folks like you (few and far between as they are) that I learn what it means to “love well.” Thanks for teaching us, every Friday, and each day. xo
it is much healthier for the soul — at least for mine it seems to be — to focus on loving well rather than being torn to shreds by the vitriol and discontent all around….
thanks for pulling up a chair every friday. and all the other times in between……xoxox
Such wonderful words of wisdom. My love of 35 years shows me his love ❤️ every day. I am truly blessed. So happy Blair is all good!
truly blessed. long love is its own kind of beautiful……..
Ohhhh the waiting room…. You have described so well what it feels like to be there… I’m grateful that all went smoothly and that you and your dear patient are this side of his surgery! Love and continued prayers for healing. xxxooo
thank you, sweet amy. blessedly, this particular waiting room had a view of the lake, and a vast expanse of the city. i loved that it was filled with light — even on a gray day. there is much to be said for a waiting room that is attuned to the nature of what brings people there, and how heightened each someone is being. and i am grateful in most occasions that medicine these days sends patients home to heal where the most healing can come. (and i am forever grateful that i have four years of nursing school under my belt, because it ever comes in handy!) xoxox
bam, again, I tear up at your words. Tom, my own long love, of forty four years, is such a part of everything that makes my life tick. He’s what gives me the feeling that I’m safe in this harsh world. He gets a kick out of my constant romanticism and perky serendipitous nature, despite the fact that he’s such a logical, methodical, organized engineering-trained guy. We are yin and yang, we treasure each other’s “other-ness”, and both feel equally lucky in the fact that we found each other when we were definitely too young and unschooled in life to even know what to look for. I was twenty-one when I married Tom, had never had my heart crushed by life, had never had a reason to look at life cynically, since he allowed me to feel safe and cherished in his love, and to be the unique me that I was created to be.
Now that we’re retired, and have time to take a little half-day adventure, as we did today, to while away the morning at an antique store an hour away, followed by lunch in a small town unfamiliar to us, I’m constantly catching myself savoring every little minute. And being aware that this lovely life could change on a dime. My mortality, at sixty-three, isn’t a constant in my stream of thoughts, but I’m aware of it more than ever before, and am so often in a state of thanksgiving when I think of how fortunate we are. No health scares yet have rocked our world. I feel undeservedly lucky when surrounded by friends who have dealt with so much. Your words today even more reinforced the preciousness of what I am living these days. Just today I caught myself turning a phrase over and over in my mind…”our time now is golden”, not in the “golden years” of senior life, but golden in the immense worth and treasure that I feel I’ve been blessed with.
As for learning to love well…I was taught by my dear mom and dad. And married a man who reinforced the love I felt from them. I have been blessed from all sides, and don’t I know it. Thank you, bam, for reminding me of loving well. It’s something I strive for daily, for I’ve been loved so well all my life.
dear B, love hearing of your long love, and its yin and yang connections. love the distinction you make with “time now is golden,” as opposed to saccharine “golden years” of senior living.
to be treasured, isn’t that the bliss beyond bliss? to be treasured for your otherness…..
i love that you stumbled into each other so very long ago. as you so beautifully put it, “too young and unschooled in life to even know what to look for.”
on a dark gray rainy saturday morning, your words glow off the screen……i KNOW you are cozy warm in your sweet kitchen. xoxox
Barbara – this post brought tears to my eyes, and also holding my breath until reading of relief and good news. Thank you for sharing these tender and uncertain experiences, and for giving words to the experience of holding vigil for those we love most dearly. I’ve been sending thoughts of love, support, and healing. May you all be well. xoxo Deb
bless YOUR heart, dear deb. i know lots of folks who wander by the table know that sharp edge of vulnerability, especially in the medical milieu, far too well…..
all is well. thank you.