I have two crazy stories to tell you this week. Crazy good, with crazy-amazing moments … The first story came out of the blue: I have to take Lulu into Children’s for bloodwork weekly, and put numbing cream on the insides of both of her arms, to give them a better shot at finding her teeny tiny veins. It’s always traumatic, no matter how much cream and self-talk I teach her. As we sat in the waiting room last week we were, as usual, surrounded by other children with their parents. You can tell immediately which are which; the sick from the healthy. Sometimes it’s obvious in the children themselves, but you can always tell by their parents. Some just cry outwardly, others simply glaze over, lost in their own pain, overwhelm or denial. The healthy-child parents give these sad, pitiful looks to the rest of us, or avoid eye contact completely.
A robust little girl came over and started speaking really obnoxiously to Lulu. She kept asking her about her feeding tube, why her hair was gone, poking at her, your basic nightmare. She wouldn’t give up, and her mom was M.I.A. She kept trying to touch Lu’s feeding tube, and at one point, she tried to grab it. Lu was so calm about all of this, but I had a secret desire to take this small child and do more than talk to her! Down Mama Lion. Of course, I didn’t act on this fleeting thought, her mom returned and we had a peaceful few moments before going in for the poke.
I started reading a friend’s Caring Bridge, filled with sadness for her, and so much empathy. I didn’t have time to finish reading it before our names were called, and I brought that energy silently into the lab room. Lulu started sniffling immediately upon entering, and I sat her in my lap as the nurse came over to do the deed. The techs there are usually very disconnected, getting the job done, ignoring all the pain/fear/screaming/hysteria they deal with from these little tykes. How else could they get through the day? But our nurse was different, completely present. As Lulu was obviously terrified, yet trying her very best to be brave, the nurse seemed moved. She kept saying, “I just feel awful, I just don’t want to do this to her. I don’t know what it is, but I just don’t want to do this. I’ve never felt this badly before”. I could tell she was sincere. It was as if she could tell how much worse Lulu’s been through, how much worse she has yet to endure, and how this little poke was just one too many insults to her little body. The blood was drawn, the kleenex came out and as I wiped the rivers of tears and snot from Lu’s face I looked up to see the nurse who also needed a tissue. We exchanged a look that reached beyond the moment, when you really see someone. She took Lu by the hands and apologized to her profusely, looking her straight in the eyes. She apologized over and over again in a heart-wrenchingly touching and surprising way. As she looked up at me, eyes still brimming with tears, she said she’s been doing this for 24 years and never wants to do it again. She’s never been so upset, and just doesn’t ever want to poke another child again. Ever. I thanked her for not being numb to her job, to us. I haven’t seen her there since.
The other story came just as unexpectedly. As you know, Lu and I have been largely sequestered for months, due to low blood counts and susceptibility. She had been asking me for weeks to go to Alterra, our favorite coffee shop, so she could get hot chocolate. It seemed like such a wonderfully normal thing to do. Finally, I just said “let’s do it!”. I actually showered and put a touch of makeup on, threw on some jeans with my favorite jacket and off we went. She was bubbling with excitement as we stood in line. The place was packed and I immediately started doubting my decision. There was no turning back now, though. We got our goodies and were forced to sit at the, oh no, COMMUNITY table! Ugh. Germs everywhere! Ok, let’s just make this snappy and get outta here.
But Lu was actually eating something, her favorite poppyseed bread, a sip of hot chocolate. Ok, we can stay a couple minutes. The guy sitting next to her says hello, and Lulu is having a ball playing as I plan an escape-route in my head. There’s something about this guy next to her, he keeps chiming in on our conversation, wanting to engage somehow. This is already atypical for us, as we more often encounter the opposite reaction from strangers. He looks like the usual eastsider: young, plaid shirt and jeans, but there’s something more there … Lu must have sensed it too, and after chewing on the broken-off piece of bread for a while, she turns around to the young man and says “do you want some?” She reaches out, offering this obviously goobed-on-by-sick-girl crumb and the guy takes it, thanking her, and EATS IT!!! He gave us a beautiful gift in this small but mighty gesture. My eyes connected with his and there was a strong energetic moment of what I’ll again call “seeing” past our physical selves. We exchanged first names, and although I wished we could talk more, I have to get Lulu out of there.
The encounter really stuck with me. I couldn’t shake it. I just had this strong intuition about it. I decided on a whim to google him. His first name was Toussaint and I knew where he was from, how hard could it be? It proved to be incredibly easy, as if fate had stepped in once again. I found him within a few minutes. He had a band, and a blog. I stopped there. I knew he would write about us, about Lulu. I don’t know how, but I just knew. I started checking the blog every few days until … There it was. The entry was called “Coffee and Chemo”. Here is the link to the full story: http://www.toussaintmorrison.blogspot.com/2012/04/coffee-chemo.html . You’ll chuckle at his misinterpretation of me (“Jesse”), but I can understand it from his point of view. He was, however, spot on in his impression of Lulu. I ended up emailing him, explaining my preoccupation, thanking him, and introducing my family to him and letting him know that Lulu was doing well. It turns out that his mother works in oncology and had been battling some health issues of her own. He was very generous in his email, and I think we will forge some kind of friendship from this. He also writes beautifully, and I’d like to invite you to follow his blog: http://toussaintmorrison.blogspot.com/
I still can’t get over it. How powerful a moment can be, a small gesture, a little empathy. How connected we all are, how powerful it is to really SEE someone, and be seen. Isn’t that what all of us really want and need in this life?
Please reply to this and share your thoughts, or a time when you’ve felt seen.
T. Marie and a.l.l of us