Unexpectedly, you stretch your arms out, reaching towards me.
No, really, it’s nothing. I stand awkwardly, not leaning forward, since I’m not really an affectionate kinda person….
You hug me anyway.
In your arms, I am suddenly reminded of life’s harrowing moments.
Because it is here, where other patients and families, have held me, or held on to me, in the same way.
Except the circumstances were different.
~ ~ ~
Working at the hospital, a few years ago, I spotted you.
In those neon green plastic bags, you carried yours and his belongings. You were on your way to the elevator, accompanied by your family, ready to leave. When you saw me, you instantly stopped to say goodbye. Like we were old friends.
In your arms, I felt your pain.
Caring for your husband in his last days, I remembered his kindness. His sense of humor. How much he loved his family. How much he loved his colleagues. And how everyone of you, loved him back, so dearly.
All the days and all the nights muddled together in a blur of a week, and then…he was gone.
~ ~ ~
Three years ago, I stood at the end of a long hospital hallway. The hallway was actually outdoors, open to the hot, tropical air. The Cambodian sun was scorching, and I was sweating like crazy.
Your mom was one of our first patients. She looked sick. Really sick. We gathered you, your brother, and your uncle aside in that hallway, away from your mother’s room. The doctor shared the news in English, and you didn’t understand.
Your mother is dying, I explained in Khmer.
Your family was quiet, with little emotion. Your brother and uncle nodded and walked away.
Then, the floodgates opened. And you flung your arms around my waist, and let out a most horrific wail.
“I’m losing my mother……!!!”
In your arms, I crumbled.
My naive self dreamt that one day I’d go to Cambodia, to save lives and bring healthcare to the poor… but it was futile. It was not anything like I’d thought it’d be.
My tears burned in a puddle of defeat.
~ ~ ~
It was nearly morning, four years ago, and my night shift was almost over. You watched me carefully, as I watched her carefully.
Pressing two fingers lightly to the side of her neck, I checked for your wife’s pulse.
There was none.
I looked up, my heart sinking. The words didn’t want to come out. “I’m sorry….”
Your reaction… I would never forget it.
In your arms, for a short moment, I held still. There, you wept. Grieved. Mourned.
Then rushed over to her and kissed her one last time.
~ ~ ~
You pull back. As you release my shoulders from your 3 second grasp, the flashback of those heart breaking hugs begins to fade.
“You don’t know how much this means to me…”
Uh, it’s nothing, really. You just needed help with your prescriptions, it’s no big deal. I didn’t think I deserved a hug for something so simple but –
“Really, it means a lot. Thank you!!!”
And you run out the clinic door, leaving me nothin’ but a smile on my face, and a heart steeped in gratitude and reassurance.