“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in their true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within.” ~Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
There was a light at 1205 N. Mandan, but it wasn’t the light from the globe over the kitchen sink, nor was it the flickering light of the TV in the living room. Rather there was a light that brightened the darkness that came from under the covers on the hospital bed that held Joanie in its grip.
The light was soft and warm, and cast a glow over her face that seemed to soften her features. It shone through the translucent sheets that kept her warm, and from a few steps away, it looked like some ethereal ray of hope that was casting a light on the beside table, the kind of table that tells you something is not right, that held the Kleenex, the cup with a straw in it to help keep her hydrated, the remote for the TV, which she never used, and the light that was reflected in the eyes of Bailey who would take up a position at the foot of the bed as if to assure her she was never alone, no matter how dark it got in the middle of the night, when things always seem they are at their worst.
I could see the light. I don’t think anyone else did. Mostly because Joanie never had visitors when it got dark. Maybe if she had, they would have seen it too.
Earlier that day, it was March 31st as I recall, Dorinda the Home Health Care nurse, who had come to know Joanie had broached the subject about what should be done should certain things happen, Joanie didn’t say anything after Dorinda left, dozing off shortly after she was gone.
Cathy Rydell stops by in the afternoon, and spends some time with Joanie. That Cathy had the time to stop in and see her meant a lot to her, and did give her spirits a lift, if only for a little while. Before Cathy left, she and I talked for a while in the garage about what was going on, and when she did leave, I think she knew it was going to be the last time she would see her old friend. Nothing was said between us, but we both knew that was true.
When I walked back into the house, Joanie was asleep, and stayed asleep until well after what would have been a normal dinner time. When she awoke, it was time for Dilaudid and Atavan.
Mary Pat and Tom had stopped by for a few moments in the early evening. Mary Pat had brought me a pan-blackened prime rib sandwich and some fries, along with a bottle of wine, and spent a few minutes with Joanie.
It was getting dark now, and after we were alone, I sat down next to her bed, and she began to talk about what had been discussed earlier in the day with Dorinda. She had understood everything, and knew what we had talked about when we dealt with the Medical Power of Attorney.
Then she told me, “I don’t want life support cut off if something happens at home, like I stop breathing.” My heart sank to the pit of my stomach. Then she said, “I’m not that sick am I?” She went to ask me if I thought she was sick.
I told her, “Joanie, you are pretty sick right now, and you haven’t eaten anything of any substance for four weeks.” I told her, as I always had before, “Any decision on that was hers. I couldn’t make it for her, and would do anything she wanted.”
I was lying to her, and now all I could think of was that I had lied to her and was hoping that she didn’t know it. I squeezed her hand, gave her a kiss and I went out back for a smoke.
When I came back in, Joanie had fallen asleep, and Bailey had found her way to the foot of the bed. I stood in the kitchen and looked at the scene before me and wondered if I had betrayed her by lying like I did.
The light coming from the bed, and the look on her sleeping face, convinced me I had done the right thing. It also made me as sad as I had ever been.
I turned the TV off, went to bed, and the light was still there.