Here at Inova Medical Center in Falls Church, VA, with my sisters, one of whom is the patient and the other of whom is a co-encourager, I am filled with an ever-increasing appreciation for and awareness of so many things: the fragility of life; the wonder of my own good health; the glory of each morning’s sunrise; the gift of helping friends and caring family, both far and near; the amazement of sisterhood; the joy of side-splitting laughter; the reality of aging and all it holds. Here on the Gynecology Unit, surrounded by rooms filled with other women who are being cared for by a phalanx of female nurses, CNAs, and mostly female doctors, I feel a part of a fierce regiment of women who are dealing with the many ways in which our female bodies can betray us, can require special and specialized care. Here in this sun-lit private room- quite spacious and facing a glorious stand of trees which enhance the view with their natural beauty- I find myself resurrecting long-dormant nursing skills as I become part of the team which is responsible for the health and well-being of a women we love and care about, my youngest sister.
Two walks around the hallway, pushing the IV pole; two bouts of inhaling deeply via the spirometer to open resistant lungs; glass after glass of water, in the hopes of encouraging a lazy bladder to resume its vital work…this is the shape of Kathy’s morning, and so, ours. And now, as she dozes, tired by the activity, the oh-so-essential activity, I can recall the little girl she once was, the little girls we all were…sharing life together in the little brick house on Norway Street, in the much larger brick house on Wilshire Drive. Family dinners; trips to Mom-mom and Pop-pop’s on Sundays after a morning at Sunday school and church; summer drives in the countryside, ending at Mack’s Ice Cream; the annual Church Picnics with friends and neighbors; going to the Isaac Walton League with our dear friends, the Leases, to picnic and play and swim in the creek with the other kids; vacation trips to up-state New York and Wildwood and the Poconos and the West Coast; swinging on the big backyard swing Daddy built and jumping into the pile of leaves we had earlier raked; tobogganing down the hill behind Leases’ or, even better, down Reservoir Hill with Dad- these are but a few of the wonderful memories which surface as I gaze out the window, while the woman from housekeeping cleans and, across the room, Susan crochets cotton dishcloths.
Life takes on a different rhythm when only one thing really counts at this moment; when only the health and well-being of a loved one, a precious sister, is the focus of care and concern. The focus narrows…the world gets smaller…and yet, it is as if an entire lifetime of memories and loved ones, of joys and sorrows, is centered on this very room, at this very moment, when past and present converge. And for this moment, it is enough.