Flash in the Pan

A Quarterly Posting at Tiny Lights


by Betty Rodgers

She picks at the neck of her hospital gown and sighs, I don't know why I thought I could do this. The nurse knocks and enters the room; yet another intrusion.

I am sitting in Room 494 with my friend Mary who is being treated for leukemia. She states time and again that she doesn't know how people can go through something like this without the support of family and a large number of friends. She has someone with her 24/7, mostly her daughter Jennifer and her husband Brian. So far, three friends have stayed overnight to relieve them. It is a comfort to Mary to know someone is near who can keep her grounded when she awakens disoriented in the middle of the night.

By now, 23 days into treatment, Mary's generous crown of blond hair has fallen out, she's extremely weak and shaky, and her mouth and lips are on fire with blackened, bloody sores. Her entire sustenance comes from IV tubes because the act of eating is too painful.

Mary dozes off in a recliner, burrowed in the brightly colored fleece blanket handmade by her sister. In the closet hang blouses and sweaters the same sister reconstructed with snaps and Velcro strips in all the right places to accommodate IV tubes and medical ports. Just as Mary begins to sleep deeply, one of her IV monitors begins to sound an insistent chirp. She asks me to summon the nurse.

All around the room flow cascades of greeting cards and other reminders of love. There can be no fresh flowers or food because Mary's immune system is severely compromised. The array on the windowsill includes an artificial potted orchid, a plastic butterfly, silvery angel coins, and a mound of books that includes Anthony Doerr's latest masterpiece, All the Light We Cannot See.

Mary is an editor, and she frets about the recurring dreams involving a client's unfinished book she was poring over when rushed to the hospital in a coma. The nurses say she seems better—a bit stronger and less swelling in her legs.

On my way home, I keep thinking about Mary's husband when he left her in my care today. He reached out and put his hand tenderly over her right foot snuggled inside the fleece blanket. He said, I'll see you later, strode toward the door, hesitated and looked back. He said, I'd kiss you, but… After a moment, he pulled the door open, stepped out and departed.

Betty Rodgers and her husband Ken are writers, photographers, filmmakers, birders and incurable travelers. Betty would invite you to visit her personal website, but she has yet to create one. Instead, she invites you to explore the website for the film she and Ken produced and directed; it can be found at www.bravotheproject.com.

Thirtieth Flash

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