I remember standing up most of the night beside the ECMO machine. They wouldn't let me place a chair there, that first night. I was so tired I could barely stand, going to sit down for a few minutes and then forcing myself back up. "If he's going to die tonight," I thought, "I need to be beside him." So I stood, for hours, just holding his hand.
I remember days later, after he had been transferred, spending the nights with my head laid on a pillow propped on his bed, my hands entwined around his arm. I couldn't sleep, I wouldn't leave, and so I would lay there through the hours of the night touching his hand, his arm, his side, always touching, interrupted only when the nurses came on rounds.
I remember making the phone call that first day. The impossible call. How do you make that call? How do you tell a mother that her beloved son has coded twice and will likely die? How, when she knew that he was going in for a simple procedure? Of the all the things in this world that I have done, that was the second hardest.
The first hardest was walking out of the hospital room after he died, knowing that I would never again see this person that I loved more than even I could fathom. I touched his hands, his arms, his face, over and over. I wanted to imprint the memory of that touch, have it somehow rest in my skin and muscle and bone. All the others had gone, to let me have some time. But how could I leave? How could I ever leave? I couldn't, but I did. It took every bit of willpower I had in me plus some act of undesired grace to get my feet moving through that doorway.
I remember so much more. I remember a life - laughter, annoyance, worry, pain, always more laughter. And the deepest sense of belonging I've ever known. I remember the life every day, but for now I remember the loss.
It is May.