It was early December 2010, just under a month since Ryan was beaten. He was still in a daily struggle… just to survive. His brain stem sprung a hemorrhage that caused him to be rushed back into surgery. We learned there was nothing that could be done. It would either clot on its own or he would die within a day. I remember the doctor telling us, just as a matter-of-fact as it could be, “these things tend to go downhill quickly”.
That night, I sat in the ICU, scared beyond words. I was numb. The room was dim, with nothing more than a small flourescent casting an antiseptic glow. The only sounds were Ryan’s breath and the repetitious beep from a monitor that matched his heart beat. He was in peril and the dawn of a new day might find him no longer with us.
More than a few times I held my breath waiting to hear it life-confirming beep again. I cradled his sunken head against mine. I felt his warm breath against my face and treasured each one. Then, I told him he must decide if he wants to lay his burden aside. I assured him I, and everyone else, would understand. I kissed his forward and waited.
What could I say to capture the terror of it all? A fear that repeated itself after every beat of his heart. Nothing would do, so I posted a message to FaceBook that simply said “Just when you reach the end of your rope, it starts stretching on you”.
Yes, it was that early on that I was at the end. How would I possibly hold on even another minute, let alone another day? A month would be unthinkable. Two years… well… that’s just crazy talk. It was that night that I made a pact with myself to live in the moment. I learned that the moment is all we have. People tell me to tie a knot and hang on, but how is this possible when I always must keep one hand off the rope to hold up Ryan?
Really, what exactly is this “rope” anyhow? Resolve? Hope? Foolishness? Probably all these… and more. These are, perhaps, the strands that are braided together, giving a false sense of strenth. Here’s the thing, this rope not only stretches, it frays. I can practically see the fibers weaken and hear each thread snap. Then, when I find myself looking at a rope that is nothing more than a hair-thin thread, I must muster every ounce of strength to lift myself above the fray. Only the rope begins immediately stretching again as it bears the force of the situation, with the added weight of relying on others to carry the responsibility and accountability that should be the attackers. This rope not only stretches and frays, it also shortens.
I’d be fooling myself if I hadn’t wonder what it would feel like to just let go. Yes, just not even think about it and spread my fingers. Would it hurt when I hit the ground or would it stop the pain? Or would I just keep falling into some black, bottomless abyss, eternally cursing myself for not holding on? Truth is, I’ll never know the answer to this. I refuse to let go… letting go is giving up.
As I hold on, I experience every emotion. I’ve lived at the extremes of both ends of love and hate, hope and despair, and gratitude and resentment. Hell, often in all places at the same time. It’s like being emotionally drawn-and-quartered. Every emotion is my body is screaming for it to just stop. Please, no more. Not only is this intense, it’s sustained. For over two years… intense and unrelenting.
It’s the epitome of mental torture. What EVER could be worse?