For the past month or so, I have been spending a lot of time with a family in the hospital. It is a horrible tragic story, where half of the family died in an accident, and the other half survived. The survivors are two teenagers, one pre-teen, and the father. The teenagers and the father have been in the hospital.
Slowly, the family is physically healing. I go to their unit about once a day, and have somehow created a connection with the kids especially. I am a person that they will ask to come back, or to stay around even if there are other guests that just entered their room.
This past week they started talking to me about their mother, siblings, and just what life was. The conversations are starting, because leaving the hospital is becoming a reality.
I was shocked when the teenage boy saw me and asked me to come to his room, where he began to tell me his feelings about leaving the hospital. How he is scared to go back to where he was living. How he is scared about going back to school and having to go back to “normal” life – because nothing in his life is normal. Everything has changed. How he has seen pictures of where he used to live and thinks that it is haunted. And we spoke and even explored some of his emotions for 20 minutes, and might have been longer if his family didn’t walk in.
I was shocked with the teenage girl started to tell me about her mother. When she wanted to show me a picture of her, although she did not want to look at it herself. When she told me she was annoyed with her friends for telling her that getting back to “life” take time, and actually the best thing they can do is just to hold her hand and say nothing, because there is nothing to say. How she is scared to go to somewhere new – even though she is done with being in the hospital – because it means that she has to learn new people, and new rules, and it means that it is one step closer to going “home”, which is scary right now.
I was shocked when the father spoke about how sad he is. How he still blames himself.
In all these instances, and more, I had to bite my cheek to not cry in front of them (they were not crying at the time). I was shocked and in awe that they were sharing so deeply with me.
But the time that I felt the most helpless, where there were no words in the world that could be of any use, was today. I was sitting with the father and he asked me if I wanted to see pictures. And so we sat, and he went through his phone showing me pictures of the children and the wife that he lost. Celebrations, vacations, just sitting around. Showing me, telling me “look how happy we were”, “look how beautiful they were”, “do you see my beautiful family?”
And then he showed me a video, of his 3 year old daughter, taken only days before her death. She was laughing hysterically while climbing all over his back. And he just played it. And played it.
She will forever be his laughing 3 year old.
And all I could do was just sit there and watch.