I wake up the morning after surgery in a haze of meds and exhaustion. I remember coming to this room on the 6th floor of St. Clare’s last night for a short rest before my surgery. I remember saying hello to my roommate and I remember her not answering me. The past two days have been a whirlwind involving lots of medical and emergency personnel, some pain and a lot of laughs. I’m quiet for a few minutes and try to wake up just a bit to get my bearings before pushing the button for a nurse. She says she was coming my way anyway to take my vitals again and see how I am doing.
My roommate is a 90-year-old sprite of a woman whose smile is contagious. I catch a glimpse of her only occasionally when the staff are moving the curtains between our beds. Neither of us feels much like talking but I hope she can sense that I am wishing her well from my side of the room. Her daughter comes in later in the morning and is at least part of the person I imagine my roommate to be or have been when Lily felt better. Lily’s daughter, Sylvia, is kind, funny and uplifting. She tells me that my roommate is virtually deaf without her hearing aid which explains her not responding to me last night. Lillian, or Lily as her family calls her, is ladylike and quiet, but has a twinkle in her eyes. Her daughter tells me that Lily was in her garden with two of her great-grandsons who love to play soccer when she fell and broke her hip. It turns out the boys were kicking the ball around and kicked it to her, so she kicked it back. They went back and forth a couple of times until on her third return of the ball she lost her balance and fell, causing the break. Lily is somewhat famous in the ward and hospital for being the soccer playing grandmother, which makes me smile.
There are many family members who come to visit her, children and grandchildren, to which she responds with a subtle glee. She is obviously very loved and loving and I believe her family members are all a reflection of the woman she is – kind and generous. I find out from another of her daughters that Lily’s husband used to work on the penstocks at the Churchill Falls Dam project and I imagine she has lived a very interesting life. This daughter helps her do her exercises and is caring but firm with making Lily do the work it will take to get her better. It’s obvious they all want her to heal so she can go home. And I can tell Lily wants to feel better and wants to walk, but she is tired and in pain. I wish so much that I can help her in any way possible to feel better and to mend.
Lily enjoys word puzzles and a quiet nap after lunch each day, and is visibly happy when her family comes in. Sylvia and Lily share reading materials, candy, fresh fruit and other things with me. Sylvia lets me use her phone to contact my family for the first time since my accident, which I appreciate more than words can express. Sylvia and Lily discuss going to chapel and obviously both have very strong faith. Sylvia sings and hums hymns to herself from time to time which is soothing to me. We joke about the curtain between Lily’s bed and mine being like the Canadian and U.S. Border and that the nurses are playing “border patrol” when they come to close the curtain. We laugh about small things and share stories and good memories.
After a few days, I have fallen into a rhythm with the staff and my leg, and with my roommate, but it is time for me to be released and start to get back on my feet – literally and figuratively. I tell Lily that I am going to miss our slumber parties, and in a small way I think it will be like leaving family when I go because they have treated me so kindly. I lay back in my bed after my bath and wait for the nurses to finish my release paperwork. Sylvia is sitting on Lily’s bed humming a hymn and reading the weekend paper. Lily is in her chair quietly working on a word puzzle while a fan blows a gentle breeze around our room. I can smell lotion that Lily has had put on her feet after her morning bath and flowers sent from well wishers. This is like a lazy afternoon weekend at home with my family and is so relaxing and calming. For a moment I am completely whole and at peace and I drift off to sleep.
Later when its time to go I ask the nurse to pull back the curtain so I can wave goodbye to Lily. And Lily blows me a kiss…..it warms my heart. This experience, all of it, has been a gift, and I will be forever grateful.