Tonight I find myself sitting alone in my room, crying. It's the kind of flooding tears that come about from something that has been stirring inside for a long while. The thing about trauma is that it doesn't go away. Just like all of life that happened before.
I've spoken about how that morning phone call about my brother's heart attacks was the worst moment in my life. I still find myself waking in the middle of the night reliving every second of that day. Every second of my time home thereafter. Everything that had led up to that point ceased to matter. It's a funny thing how your mind and body adapt seamlessly to these things. It was as if all of my problems and concerns never were, and the only thing that ever existed was the fight for Sam's life.
My youngest brother Ed, my mom, my dad--they were my whole world as we became the closest we've ever been. As a close-nit family already we became empty vessels and substance alike. We took turns filling each other up and receiving energies as needed. We didn't have to speak. I found a sister in Sam's girlfriend Medora. I found myself staring out so much of the time, feeling completely empty. How was it possible that at the same time I felt like I was made of love. Only love. It felt as though every cell in my body was radiating and speaking to the universe. For the first time I understood that we are made of the same thing. That I am of stardust. Sam was the reason that we were together just then. To have lost him would have been to have truly lost my heart.
The thing I know is that the rest of us would have been there to pick up the pieces. To spend our days searching for our hearts again. Helping each other find them bit by bit. I don't know what miracles really are. I just know what they feel like. Having Sam still with us is the most divine experience I think I could ever hope for.
I watched a family sit bedside in the ICU for weeks. I watched everyone take turns holding the ice-cold hands of a man hardly there except for a hypothermia-induced shell. He was paralyzed, and we all moved his limbs around for him since he couldn't do it himself. We kissed his face and laid our cheeks against his arms that were skin and bone. It was hard to reach any part of his flesh with all of the machines and tubes and cords surrounding him. Still, he was our boy. He was our Sammy. Nothing made sense without all of us. Without the five pieces.
We stayed overnight on the floor of the hospital waking up with every slight noise outside. Those that have stayed know that there is no restful sleep. Hearing "code blue" over the intercom made our hearts stop until we knew for sure no one was coming to speak to us. We took turns pushing each other to get out and shower and get a meal outside of the cafeteria. Because really the only place we wanted to be was as close to Sam as possible.
When Sam woke up we stayed. We stayed and we stayed and we stayed until "real" life crept back in. Life has been forever altered, and yet bills still need to be paid. Emails need to be sent. Copy needs to be written. Lawns need to be mowed.
The difficulty moving forward from something so life-changing is that the rest of life really hasn't changed at all. We've changed. How do we move forward now? One thing that has only gotten stronger within me is my firm belief that companionship, relationships, friendships are at the core of life. They are love. I've always felt my purpose has been to connect with others, to tell stories, to help in some way. Kindness and compassion are the extensions of that. As with anything, we can get caught up in false priorities and lose sight for bits of time. I always feel the most inner joy and clarity when I am fulfilling this purpose and thankfully find myself being pulled back.
Last year I had the rare opportunity to be a bone marrow donor. I have found it very difficult to explain to people why it meant so much to me to help a stranger, and harder yet to explain why I still haven't recovered from the loss of the experience itself. When I first received the email about being a match I felt as if my destiny were being realized. Finally I was to be useful in a tangible way. My heart had never felt so full. And when I received the email that the patient wasn't able to receive my donation anymore, just as casually sent as the first, I was utterly devastated. I couldn't breathe. Just then I wondered why purely good things are taken away from us. And this year I was wondering the same thing when we almost lost Sam.
There is no explaining the world except to say that if we are kind and caring and compassionate, especially when there seems to be no reason for it, then we can keep moving forward only to do the same thing over and over again.
After Sam became so sick I found myself wanting to help more. I wanted to give of myself more deeply. I looked into organ donations. I became curious about kidney donation as Sam had briefly been on dialysis. How strange that yesterday I became aware of a woman in need of a donor. I immediately filled out some forms and sent them off. Who knows if I'll ever hear from her hospital, and if I did, if I would even be a match. The only thing I can do is try. And I will keep trying every day for the rest of my life. To love. To give. To be kind.