The following is a reprint from a guest post I did this weekend for Anna over at Hank and Willie.
These past ten days have been surreal for my family. In the midst of the regular summer crazies the most unexpected tragedy befell my brother-in-law. This post won't be about what happened, although I can tell you he is alive and with a spirit intact and filled with generosity, love and gratitude.
No, this post is about the child in all of us. And it came about in the most unexpected way. Today I worked at the hospital (I've been MIA since the PTA Convention and then with my brother-in-law). Late this afternoon I walked onto one of the ICU floors to get some paperwork filled out by a patient. The first thing I noticed was the grim-faced police officer sitting outside of his room, clacking away on a small official looking laptop. I did a double take on the patient's chart - oh. Meth overdose. No wonder.
I felt myself harden inside as I judged this young man for his foolish choice before even crossing the threshold to his room. I'm a mom. I protect my own children from this kind of trash. I stepped in and took a good look. He was only twenty-four, but nearly unrecognizable as a young man. His skin was pocked and eaten away by Meth sores, and he had white streaks slashed across his cheeks where the acidic vomit ( imagine what your body would do if you regularly consumed Meth) had left its angry mark on his ravaged skin. I asked his nurse if I could talk with him and she shrugged her shoulders and looked at him with contempt.
"He's sleeping it off. Wake him up."
I understood why she felt this way - all the sick people needing care and this delinquent eats poison and gets some of the best care in the state. Her attitude may have been wrong by medical ethics standards, but I can understand.
"Mr. Meth Head?" [not his real name] "I need you to wake up so that I can speak with you."He slowly opened his swollen, bruised lids. He was obviously confused as to where he was, and for a brief moment, his vulnerability shone through him like a beam of light. Almost instantly, and very unexpectedly, I felt overwhelmed with compassion. What kind of life led him to this path? What was he numbing inside of him with drugs? Maybe nothing. Maybe he was just a junkie who had been given every opportunity and screwed it up anyway. Or maybe he had an unspeakably painful past.
I put my hand on his arm. "This won't take long. I know you're feeling sick and I'll be quick." I looked down and saw that his hand was handcuffed to the bed rail.
After I finished up, I turned to leave and I heard him croak out to me, "Has anyone told you you're beautiful today?" I quickly smiled and left. The cop gave me a grin and joked that I had a date as soon as he got out of jail.Later, when I got home today and hugged my children hello, my six year-old son brushed past me and then turned, almost as an afterthought. He looked up at me with clear, blue eyes. He drives me crazy with the longest eyelashes you can imagine - they nearly rest on his perfect pink cheek and I joke that it's a tragic waste on a boy. "Mama? You look beautiful today."
I felt my knees nearly buckle as I bent down to give him a squeeze. I will do my best by him, but no one knows where he'll be in twenty years. I whispered into his soft ear, "Thank you, baby. You're beautiful, too."
I'll bet that young man handcuffed to the bed was once a beautiful boy, too.