Imagine What I Would Have Missed If I Hadn’t

“Isn’t it hard to get so close to your patients and love each of us so much, especially when you lose one?” 

“Yes, but can you imagine what I would have missed if I hadn’t?” 

Your eyes twinkle a little when you say this.  These words come out without hesitation.  It is a price you are aware you have paid over and over again.  One that you would pay again without pause.  One that you pay once more with me as I sit next to you.

Yes, but can you imagine what I would have missed if I hadn’t?

You are perched on your chair at the head of the table.  The one where you always sit.  Your office is lined with artifacts from your former life in Lebanon, awards, the drawing I made for you, a photo of your baby granddaughter.  Your trusted nurse sits silently in the corner, taking notes so nothing is missed.  Your assistant hovers outside the door in case you need anything.  There is a team of people surrounding you.  Always.  It takes a team to do this work.  It takes a team to love this much, care this much.

Today must be a social visit because I am on your left. I always sit in the chair to your right when I get news about my scans.  We take a trip through my body, my neck, the area that was once active with cancer, my lungs, my abdomen, normal activity in the kidneys all projected on the substantial screen before us.  The only places that light up are the places that are supposed to.  Dr. Stenoien’s steady voice comes on the phone as he delivers the news that my scans are once again clear.  But today I am on your left when I look into your eyes and this new bit of wisdom is disclosed in your thick, Lebanese accent.

“Thank you, Randy,” you say as he hangs up.  You turn to me with light in your eyes and clasp your hands together, “You are perfect!”  Then your hand reaches for mine.  Good news or bad, your hand always reaches for mine.

I still wonder at your words.  What would I have missed?

I can name the people… you, Eleni, Barbara…

Walking my kids down the street to elementary school.  Flynn and Zuzu growing up in the same town as my mom and dad.

Would I have missed the small moments?  Would I have seen them for what they really are… the big moments?  

Would I have missed the love?  The depth of it?  The awareness of the current that runs under everything.  The way love is a shapeshifter.  How it can take on the shape of almost anything… a text, a container of cookie dough, a clean house, a trucker hat.

Yes.  It is hard.  There are things that have been lost that can never be recovered.  There are dreams that have died, a life never had.

Yes.  There are things I do miss.  I miss the ocean, our friends, California, my body.  Some of those things would have left anyway, but some would not.  I miss the ignorant bliss that life goes on forever.

When I discovered this lie, I wondered if the brilliance of life would be turned up.  The light brighter and the dark deeper.  Tenebrism.  But instead the contrast seems to have been turned down.  Turned so low that light and dark are just slightly different shades of gray.  The difference almost imperceptible.  Love and pain, joy and sorrow nearly indistinguishable.  One in the same?  Both hazy grays yet both now enveloped in light.

Can you imagine what I would have missed?

It is not math.  It does not add up.  It is not worth it.  It cannot be calculated, analyzed, qualified in those terms.

It has taken.  It has given.

Would I have held on to more things?  More anger, more pain, more hurt?  Would I have lugged them around like a weighty backpack as I trek through the landscape of this life?

Would I have searched for the light?  Found it in the darkest of places?  Reflected it out to the world in this way?  Become light?

“Isn’t it hard to get so close to your patients and love each of us so much, especially when you lose one?” 

“Yes, but can you imagine what I would have missed if I hadn’t?”