You lie across from me, high on your hospital bed, your delicate and pale frame awash against the bright white sheets. I feel compelled to watch as my eyes align with yours.
Your husband arrives early every morning, his cap positioned neatly on his head, and a bag in one hand. He sits loyally by your side feeding you grey food from underneath its plastic confines. He comforts you and calms you and then he walks away, his eyes wet with tears. Seeing the pain in his face breaks my weary heart.
You converse quietly with your European accents; yours so warm and gentle, straight from the heart of Slovenia, romantically nestled against your husbands Italian drawl. Your voices float across the airy room, providing intermittent relief from the humdrum of nothingness that is hospital living. I am brought to tears, marveling at the beauty of unconditional love.
My heart swells with compassion as you moan, the intermittent pain almost too much to bear. There are times I groan along with you. We are two wolves howling in the night, only yours seems to come from the depths of your soul.
Your sons come to visit; big surly men with anger to boot. The larger man sways back and forth on his chair, his anger noticeable, as he churns a stream of expletives forth from his mouth. These words are simply a ruse to cover up his fear of death.
Sickness strips you of your dignity Martina. I can feel it too.
You have cancer pulsing through your body. You’ve had surgery on your hip. The doctors arrive early one morning to inform you there will be more surgery, only you are still drowsy from pain relief. They walk away as you fall into a dreamy fog and forget what it was they came to tell you. Later in the day you are told the same news, this time your husband is by your side, and you cry and cry at the prospect of having to go through it all again.
You tell me about your surgery as I prepare to leave and I feel your frustration and pain as your tears once again start to flow.
I have thought about you often since I left the hospital almost four weeks ago. I have contemplated your pain, I have admired your courage, and I have wished you well.
To Martina, with love.