This is my toiletry bag
It is sitting on the floor of my bathroom (hiding some dust bunnies, probably). It’s been there for a few weeks now, since we got home from the beach. It hasn’t been put away because I need to refill the bottles before I put it back under the sink. But there’s no rush. It’s not urgent. Not like it used to be.
In 2019, it was always ready. Always fully stocked. Always ready to dash to the hospital at a moment’s notice to stay with Emily. I never knew when we’d go, but I always knew we’d end up staying at least one night, typically more. Emily’s oxygen levels would drop, she’d spike a fever, her lung would collapse, or something similar. We’d head to the ER and they would spend at least an hour trying to find a spot for an IV. Emily hated being poked.
And then we’d be admitted. To the ICU. Because she was on a ventilator. And I would roll my suitcase into a corner and find a comfortable spot, out of the way of the nurses. Because it would be a while. Em would always ask me to hold her hand while they poked and prodded. I would turn her face away so she couldn’t see, and we would pray they would find a good vein. And much later, after she was finally asleep, I would unzip my suitcase, pull out my toiletry bag, brush my teeth and climb into the cot next to Emily.
That was the routine for 21 years. In and out of hospitals so many times I knew the staff by first names. It was always the same procedure, the same suitcase, the same toiletry bag. Always ready, every time.
Until that hospital stay in January 2020.
Emily said “No more pokes!” She was done. No more IVs. No more ER visits. No more ICU. That was going to be her last trip to the hospital. She did not want to go back. Ever. And so we didn’t. The next time her oxygen levels dropped and her lung collapsed, we stayed at home. We made sure she was comfortable. And we watched her take her last breath, surrounded by so many people who loved her. No more hospitals. No more pokes. No more sorrow. No more tears. She breathed her last breath here, and that very moment breathed brand new air and brand new lungs on the other side of Heaven.
Somehow I can’t make myself refill my bag tonight. There’s no rush. Not anymore. And that’s okay.
For more resources on grief and the changes it brings, go to www.griefshare.org