Three weeks ago tonight I was eating tacos in a trendy restaurant with Maggie in Wheaton, Illinois. One week later in the wee hours of the morning, Mark found Maggie on the floor unresponsive. She had suffered a stroke. Twelve hours later she had surgery to relieve the bleeding. Mark called me on Maggie's cell phone when surgery had begun to tell me what happened. I picked the phone up and said, "Happy birthday, Maggie!" "It's Mark," he said and then told me the news.
Today, after two weeks of hospitalization, Maggie has transferred to a rehab facility where she faces what will be a long recuperation process. She is making progress. After surgery she was on a ventilator and had a feeding tube. She now has a "peg" in her stomach for feeding. She can get around with assistance and follow some instructions. She has spoken a few words.
I have wept many times for her and for Mark. How can it be? I guess I have wept for us too--could it happen to us too? How can it happen so suddenly to someone who was supposedly in good health with no warning signs?
I keep thinking about how Maggie will feel when she realizes what has happened to her. Maybe she already understands. It would be easier if she didn't in some ways; but she has to face it to be able to do the therapy I would think. I don't know. I haven't asked for details.
Our conversations in the 24 hours I was with her play out in my head over and over. We had talked about the stress in her life recently but truly it was mostly happy stress. Many folks have asked how I am doing knowing she was my friend and that I had just visited her. I have appreciated their concern because it has been hard.
It has affected many who know her--young and old. We older ones feel vulnerable. Jim and I discussed the choices we would make, or have each other make, if this happened to us. At this point in our lives, we both said we would want to stay alive and go through the necessary rehabilitation. At age 80, I thought, maybe not. Jim says that at that point I might think differently.
A very busy young mother spoke of realizing that you can't postpone happiness or plans until you retire some day. Another young friend wondered if a dissertation was worth all the effort. Jim thinks I am breathing heavily; I check during the night to see if he is breathing at all! There have been more hugs and expressions of affection and appreciation for each other.
I wonder what we can do for Maggie and for Mark. I dread seeing her as she is now but I want to support her and Mark too. I will ask Mark when and if he wants us to come. We can sit with Maggie and give him a break. We can go out to eat with him and listen. For now, I pray and Mark writes that is more helpful than he can say. Good.
I do think about our own inevitable failing and demise. I have ideas that I want to be followed but that can be a topic for another blog. However, I'll never know if my last instructions are carried out, will I?