I have taken to reading things written by nurses - everything I can get my hands on. I like Chicken Soup for the Nurses Soul and all kinds of publications with all kinds of views. I have been reading a book written by a critical care nurse in her first year of nursing (and feeling no small measure of envy over her courage in writing it) and enjoying her newbie views on caring for her patients. Two nights ago the chapter took the reader through a patient newly diagnosed with AML (Acute Myeloid Leukemia) and I read it with great interest and a weird sense of inner pride. I knew both the official names and the nicknames of the chemo and I knew what the nicknames for the different phases of therapy meant. I grew pensive as the writer described her sense of inner angst for the patient, who had yet to realize how hard the leukemia journey is, who was full of vigor and determination and combating fear with epithets of inner strength. I grew sleepy eyed after a bit though and I dog-eared the page and turned out my light. Joe had stayed up for a while and I was alone in the dark, which is so very rare. I am almost never alone anymore it seems sometimes. And this rumble started deep in my gut, far from any digestive process, far from where I breathe....and it erupted from me in a low, mournful cry. I cried for that wonderful son I named Joseph, whose presence remains burned in my mind, for the fact that the names of chemotherapy are any part of the memories I have of him or that the suffering the nurse referenced and pitied her patient for had been any part of his life at all. I cried for my continued need to cover up, hide, bury this grief and I cried for my inability to release it and live without it. I cried for how long it has been since I have seen Joseph and for how old and yellowed the memories are becoming, day by day, year by year. I cried for Nick's 18th birthday and his coming activities for his senior year that will culminate in his graduation and my internal sense of out-of-orderness that causes, the trigger it is for more fear of loss, for having to let go, for all the wishes I had for him as a child that he did not get due to his brothers being so ill. I cried and I cried and I cried, shaking the bed like a child too tired to cope with the day anymore....and I do not remember stopping crying. Before long the alarm was going off and royal blue scrubs were picked from the dresser and coffee was burning my throat. I scarcely remembered the crying for a time, but the ill advised attempt to put eye liner on my swollen upper lids that morning that reminded me, my mind searching out why I would be so puffy, then remembering as if startled. I think of Joseph every single day, but most days it is just a thought, like touching a rock in my pocket. I don't always, in fact rarely these days, take it out and examine it.
As I put on my make up and screwed my hair around to some semblance of presentability, light tapping sounded on the window's glass. The world was still dark and I could not see outside at all, but it pattered in a whisper against the pane, waving in and out as sleet does when carried on brisk winds. Pandora began playing Melissa Etheridge's "The Letting Go" and I grew quiet, my hurried routine slowed for a moment; I closed my eyes, closed my mind and recieved that tiny gift. By the time I started the car, it had all turned to rain and nobody at work mentioned any sleet, just the nip and the cold in the air. And then the patients were present and the medications needed fetching and dosing, the night nurses relieved to see me and the day scooting by with lightening speed as it usually seems to do. Just that fast, that deep, intense whisper in my heart of a pain that lives deep and low within me, as much a part of my personality and viewpoints now as any other thing that has shaped me growing to my mid life. It comes so slow.....the letting go.