Thursday, September 1, 2011

Going back...

The night Everett died, we walked out of Sick Kids (The Hospital for Sick Children), with empty arms and shattered hearts. We were broken people, and in our broken state, we felt overwhelmed with anger and pain and grief, and needed something, someone, or someplace to put all those feelings on. We took our anger and we put it on God, who we thought should have saved him, should have cured him, but didn't. We took our anger and our grief and built walls with it, trying to block out the rest of the world, who seemed to carry on normally when our world had fallen to pieces. We took our love and we put it on our surviving children, who were like salve to a burn, they soothed and healed and took away some of the sting. And we took the unnamed negative feelings, the negative associations, the memories of what Everett endured in his time on earth, and we put them on Sick Kids. Though they did so much for us, and for him, and though they treated him so amazingly well and we were so grateful for how hard they tried to save him, we came to associate them with death, with pain, with loss and with the moment we had to leave Everett behind and go home without him.

For years, I lived in fear of having to return to Sick Kids, for any reason. Their commercials on TV made my heart race, and seeing pictures of the hospital, even happy pictures, made me panic. I developed a full aversion to the place my son died, even though I had fundraised for them and believed in their work and their staff, to me, it was the place my baby died, and I couldn't bring myself to reconcile to it.

The other day I made a trip to Toronto with a friend, for a day of fun with her and my new baby daughter. Plans changed unexpectedly when my friend, who works at Sick Kids, had to made a stop in to work, and I panicked at the prospect of having to go with her, even for a short while. I panicked imagining us driving on the streets near the hospital, I imagined the familiar scenery and my heart beat faster. I imagined the parking garage, the elevators, the cafeteria, the murals on the walls, and I cried at the very thought of it. My friend and I decided that to avoid any discomfort for me, I would wait at a nearby coffee shop for her, but as we drove closer to Sick Kids, I found I wasn't panicking, my heart wasn't racing, and I made the huge decision, to go in with her. I made it through the parking garage, through the elevators, through the hallways, through the cafeteria, and I was shocked at what I felt.

Not pain.

Not sadness.

Not panic.

Not grief.

More like relief. More like a pleasant familiarity. Something near to comfort. Some much like peace. How incredibly strange.

I sat in the cafe, just like I had years before, it was exactly as it was back then. I watched the people come and go, Dr's, nurses, patients, parents, volunteers, I watched the elevators go up and down, and I stared up at the floor that Everett was on. I stared up at the spot that we had stood at and stared down from so many times during Everett's stay at Sick Kids. I held Stella and looked around wide eyed, and it was all so much the same, but I felt like I was seeing it all for the very first time. My eyes never welled with tears, and my heart never raced, my breathing never quickened, and sadness never overcame me.

And I felt like some divine plan was falling into place before my eyes, and that I was supposed to come back to this place, at this time, with my baby girl in my arms, to teach me something about healing, and to help me see our experience here at Sick Kids with new eyes.

For more then three years I dreaded ever setting foot in Sick Kids again, because it was the place where Everett died.

Now I saw it as the place where Everett last LIVED!

I used to see it as the place we lost our faith.

Now I see it as the place God used to really lay the ground work to build on it.

I had been thinking of Sick Kids as the site of the event that sent our lives spiraling out of control, and sitting there again, years later, I could see that God used it to set us upon a new course, perhaps a painful one at times, but one that would ultimately teach us so much about love and faith and grace and the importance of cherishing life.

Driving to Toronto with my friend, I wrongly assumed that it would be so difficult to set foot inside that building, but sitting there alone with my baby, surrounded in familiar sights and sounds, and memories, I realized that it would be so much harder to leave it. The pain would come from walking out the doors again, not in. Because there in the cafeteria of Sick Kids, I felt closer to Everett then I ever had in the past three and some years. I felt near to him, and more peaceful and content in his memory then I could have ever imagined. Leaving felt like walking away from him again, but this time it didn't make me fall to pieces, and it did not bring me tears. And this time I did not walk out hoping to never go back again, but rather looking forward to a time when I could go back, and feel that closeness once again.

When Everett was alive and being treated there, I bought myself a necklace in the gift shop, a Bravery Beads necklace with a bright red glass heart pendant. And on my return trip there this week, I went back to the gift shop and bought myself the matching bracelet, it only seemed fitting that I not walk out empty handed, and I walk out with another piece of "bravery" jewelry, to reward myself for taking the monumental step I took, and facing a fear I had been holding onto for too long.

So here's to doing things I never imagined I could do.

Here's to feeling things I never imagined I could feel.

And here is to Everett, who continues to change my heart and my life, each and every day!


1 comment:

  1. Katie l am so proud of you for being strong and going back but feeling relieve in the inside. Love you Katie.