In one month I will get my 7th craniotomy and my 8th surgery related to my tumor (the beloved Herbert) and my spinal fluid leak (the finicky bitch Flo). It is the one month pre-anniversary of the day I will have my body opened up yet again.
I have a list of dates in my mind. The surgeries I had, the days in the hospital, the days I went home, the days I was in the emergency room. I have that list in my head because as I pass each of those dates a month later, or a year later I get a reminder that I live. I continue to live. Though often with pain,and sometimes with suffering, I get to live. And boy is it a beautiful life. It is so full of love that I cannot contain it all, it is so full of gratitude that I can’t always express it. And yes, I carry the love and gratitude with the pain, never denying myself my right to feel sad, or frustrated. I carry all these human emotions, because I am but a person. And life can be complicated like that. Beautiful though, in all of its perfectly imperfect moments.
In one month I will spend a morning hungry from the emptiness in my stomach, yet listless and without an appetite because of the dread a surgery brings. In one month I will gently and carefully wash the scarred curves of my body, preparing them to be sterilized. In one month I will put on something soft, that easily falls away, reminding me of how fruitless these vestiges of our everyday are. In one month I will sit on a cold hospital bed, with a warm but brittle blanket over my legs while nurses struggle to find a vein that will give one of their needles the time of day. In one month I will hug the people I love, some who have been there all along, some who I am honored to love anew as we embark on this journey that is life; I will hold them tight and whisper my temporary goodbyes. In one month I will feel the breath get caught in my throat as I am carried away from the network of support, wheeled away by strangers. In one month I will make jokes until the nurses and anesthesiologists laugh so genuinely the pity in their eyes escapes. In one month I will carry my loosening, waning body from the bed onto the operating table. In one month I will feel the stiff gelatinous rubber of the pillow that carries my skull, before it is drilled open, against my neck. In one month I will feel the familiar squeeze of a doctors hand on my arm as he assures me he will take good care. In one month I will watch a mask close in on my face, as I drift away into temporary darkness. All of that I will remember.
In one month I won’t remember the slice of the scalpel as it cuts over rigid scars. In one month I won’t remember the sound of the drill careening through my body. In one month I won’t remember the vulnerableness of my body, laid out naked on a table. In one month I won’t remember the feeling of getting bruised as a vice closes in around my head. In one month I won’t remember the sutures as they urge my flesh shut. In one month I won’t remember your faces as you wait in angst for news of my return. In one month I may not remember how humbled my spirit feels to be loved by those of you who hold vigil for me in my absence. I’ll be in the darkness for those moments.
I know what I will remember, because this road is all too familiar. It’s almost habitual and the ritual of getting surgery fills me with hope and dread. The tension of those feelings pulling against each other weighs on my heart. And I remember, and those memories mix with the anxieties and hopes of now. Though what I remember most is love and what I imagine most into the events of next month is love. Walter Benjamin once said, “the work of memory collapses time,” perhaps that is why I sit here now , with one month before surgery, remembering what will happen.
“Memory is not an instrument for surveying the past but its theater. It is the medium of past experience, just as the earth is the medium in which dead cities lie buried. He who seeks to approach his own buried past must conduct himself like a man digging” -Walter Benjamin
Happy Pre-anniversary my friends, may we all remember something that matters today.
Peace and love,