The last words I heard before I closed my eyes for the last time were: ‚ÄúDon‚Äôt be afraid. You‚Äôre in good hands.‚ÄĚ (began writting November 2008)371d36d75e05eda735858f8e467be99c
The last words I heard before I closed my eyes for the last time were: ‚ÄúDon‚Äôt be afraid. You‚Äôre in good hands.‚ÄĚ I was aware I was afraid, but it was the muted fear that I‚Äôd always experienced whenever I was put under for surgery. I was always very aware of my heartbeat. I could feel it within my chest and hear the monitor beeping within my ears. Bump-bup, bump-bup, bup-mp, bup-mp, bup-mp, bup-mp. The machines allowed me to hear my heart panic more than I emotionally seemed capable of doing. It was always afraid of these things, always trying to prove to the world that it was good. ‚ÄúLook at me, I can do my job. Don‚Äôt hurt me.‚ÄĚ
I don‚Äôt know why ‚Ä¶ My heart. My poor heart was the heart that God had given me. What a blessing the heart was, a wonderful little soldier marching day and night to save and protect my cells from death, to supply them with the armament of oxygen and nutrients so that I could be‚Ä¶
My heart was sick. My heart had been through many surgeries since early childhood. Through all that, it had been performing its job for almost sixteen years to the best of its ability. A few times it had stopped. Many times it couldn‚Äôt keep up, but it was my heart, my little solider.
My mother had cried with excitement when the phone call came, ‚ÄúMary ‚Äď Mary-Anne! Kyle! We have a doner! It‚Äôs a doner.‚ÄĚ She laughed. My father and mother embraced in the kitchen as I stood in the entryway giving them both a blank stare. My mother reached for my hand and repeated with a smile and tears on her cheeks ‚ÄúYou have a doner, Mary-Anne.‚ÄĚ I gave her a weak grin, barely squeezed her hand and sat down in the nook feeling as if my mother and I had switched places. She‚Äôd always been so emotionally distant, so numb toward me and now that she had embraced my hand, I wanted to recoil.
Soon my mother was chattering on the phone again, finding out when we needed to be at the hospital, how long the stay would be, and all the other details. She paced in the kitchen as my father took over making dinner. As my mother scribbled details on the notepad and asked more serious questions, she slowly returned to her business-like manner, and my numbness melted away.
Tears began to stream down my cheeks. She hadn‚Äôt asked for my consent. She hadn‚Äôt asked if I wanted to accept the transplant. All the times we‚Äôd argued about it in the past, even the time I had thrown all the contents of my doctor‚Äôs desk on the floor, she had ignored how I had felt. It was my heart. My heart.
I had stomped out of the kitchen and slammed my bedroom door behind me. It was the first thing that drew my parents‚Äô attention to me. I overheard my mom say into the phone, ‚ÄúCan I call you back?‚ÄĚ
I cried into my pillow. Someone‚Äôs dying. They want to give me a dead person‚Äôs heart. Oh, let them live, God. Give them a chance. They don‚Äôt need to die. You‚Äôve given me a good heart. I don‚Äôt want another. Let them live. My mother protested and scolded me through the door till I allowed her in.
‚ÄúMom, you didn‚Äôt ask me.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúMary-Anne, calm down. This is not good for your heart.‚ÄĚ Mom was totally serene again. Nerves of steal, and as cold as steal, she looked at me only with disapproving eyes.
‚ÄúNeither is taking my heart out and throwing it away!‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúDon‚Äôt be melodramatic. You agreed to go on the donor list.‚ÄĚ I could do nothing but stare at her feeling the tears down my cheeks wondering why she couldn‚Äôt see that didn‚Äôt matter anymore. We looked into each other‚Äôs eyes, and I willed for her to embrace me but she only crossed her arms and pursed her lips.
My dad soon came to the doorway and hesitantly gestured for me to take the Kleenex box from his hand. He left as soon as I took the box. I blew my nose, threw the tissue in my waste paper basket and sat on my bed hiccupping with tears.
‚ÄúYou don‚Äôt understand. I don‚Äôt want a dead person‚Äôs heart. I want to keep my heart.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúDon‚Äôt be selfish. This is your life we‚Äôre talking about.‚ÄĚ She gave me a hard look and when I could see that her eyes were swelling, she took in a breath, turned around and headed away from the doorway just as my dad was returning with a glass of water. He entered my room and sat next to me on my bed.
‚ÄúShe only loves you,‚ÄĚ he dabbed my cheeks with a tissue. I took the glass of water and drank. Dad said nothing more, but only sat with me for the 20 minutes I was allowed to cry. He was always a man of few words.
Everything happened quickly after that. I conceded to the heart transplant for Mom‚Äôs sake and packed what I needed for the hospital. I wrapped my scapular around my left wrist. I never knew if that counted, but I knew my doctors would not allow me to wear it around my neck during surgery. I made sure to put on my four-way medal though, the one that specifically said on the back ‚ÄúI‚Äôm Catholic. Call a priest.‚ÄĚ That I knew they‚Äôd remove, but if things happened so fast I could not request a priest before surgery, I chanced the possibility of them reading it.
As my mother went through her checklist of ‚Äúthings not to forget‚ÄĚ, I texted my favorite hospital chaplain, Fr. Bennette.
AYT? HR8 IN TRANS. CM IF U CN. [‚ÄúAre you there? Heart in transit. Call me if you can.‚ÄĚ]
‚ÄúSeems that‚Äôs it,‚ÄĚ My mom announced. ‚ÄúTime to go. No stalling.‚ÄĚ She passed me by, slipping a tissue into my hand and glancing disapprovingly at my still reddened eyes. I whipped my nose with it and stuffed it in my jean pocket as she opened the door out to the garage.
My father and I headed out of the house nearly single file behind Mom who carried my book bag now filled with all hospital visit necessities over her shoulder. I tried hard not to bump into anything in the garage as I prepared a text for my friend, Ashley. Ashley was a good, reliable friend with a get-it-done attitude. I knew I didn‚Äôt have time to contact all my friends, and Ash was totally capable of getting the word out. Mom gave me the usual hospital visit privilege of sitting in the front passenger seat her new hybrid, and situated herself with the bag in the back as my dad started the engine.
HR8 IN TRANS. I‚ÄôM SCRD. PRY. TXT E1. LUV U ALL. GTG. BY. [‚ÄúHeart in transit. I‚Äôm scared. Pray. Text everyone. Love you all. Got to go. Bye.‚ÄĚ]
My parents did not speak on the car ride to Sacred Heart children‚Äôs hospital, nor did we listen to the radio. Dad simply drove as I silently prayed my rosary focusing specifically on the Sorrowful Mysteries regardless that it was a Thursday. The Sorrowful seemed more appropriate than the Luminous. I connected easily to the Agony in the Garden, to Christ‚Äôs fear the night before his death, the sadness of seeing his disciples asleep, and his willful obedience to do the hardest thing in the world. As soon as I got to the Scourging at the Pillar, I stopped. I was still on the Agony. I was midway through meditating on the Agony of the Garden for the second decade of ‚ÄúHail Mary‚Äôs‚ÄĚ when I received a text.
SPRPRIEST 2 RSC. MEET U IN LBBY ARMD WTH WTH SPRTL ESSNTLS. [‚ÄúSuperpriest to the rescue. Meet you in lobby armed with spiritual essentials.‚ÄĚ]
We got my bag out of the car and proceeded to the main entrance of the hospital crossing paths with a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He stood there as usual gesturing with his right hand to his exposed heart and offering a blessing with his left. Like my heart, it was a troubled heart surrounded with a ring of thorns and crowned with a flame engulfing His cross. I starred at it as we crossed its path, wanting to stop and look longer though I had seen it hundreds of times before.
‚ÄúMary-Anne,‚ÄĚ my mom called after me and gestured for me to keep following. We went through sliding glass doors and stepped up to the registration desk. A gray-haired volunteer behind the desk smiled at me with recognition, but I felt distracted. I didn‚Äôt see Fr. Bennette anywhere.
‚ÄúI hear we‚Äôve had some good news,‚ÄĚ she commented as she handed my mother the registration forms.
‚ÄúIt is good news,‚ÄĚ my mother commented. ‚ÄúMary-Anne is nervous, but she‚Äôll get through.‚ÄĚ Mom looked at me as she said, as if she were instructing me not to contradict her, ‚ÄúShe‚Äôs a very strong girl.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúMom, do you mind if I wait in the chapel while you fill those out?‚ÄĚ I asked her, and she shook her head.
‚ÄúWe have limited time,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚ÄúKyle, could you get Mary-Anne a wheelchair from the nurse‚Äôs station?‚ÄĚ
I never understood why I needed to be rolled around in a wheelchair every time I came to the hospital when I was perfectly capable of walking, but I‚Äôd learned not to argue with my mother about it.
‚ÄúI could call Father Bennette to see if he has time to meet with you before surgery,‚ÄĚ the volunteer suggested.
‚ÄúWould you?‚ÄĚ I said eagerly, ignoring my mother‚Äôs impatient sigh, but she said nothing about the point. ‚ÄúHe told me he‚Äôd meet me here, but maybe he got held up. Could you let him know what room I‚Äôll be in? Let him know that I‚Äôd like to receive the anointing of the sick again with confession if there‚Äôs time. Would there be time?‚ÄĚ
I looked eagerly back and forth between my mother and the friendly elderly volunteer woman whose name escaped me dispute the nametag. ‚ÄúI know getting the anointing is important to you,‚ÄĚ my mother said. ‚ÄúBut let‚Äôs not make it unnecessarily longer than it has to be. We‚Äôre pressed for time.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúGreat, I‚Äôll make the call then,‚ÄĚ said ‚ÄėHi my name is Violet‚Äô with a friendly grin on her face. ‚ÄúNo need. I‚Äôm here,‚ÄĚ My mother pursed her lips tighter than usual and toyed with biting her bottom lip, as the priest in his late 60‚Äôs came jogging toward the desk. Fr. Bennette rushed over and nearly crashed his entire weight into the desk, then gripped his hands around the edges, bowing his head.
‚ÄúFather,‚ÄĚ Mom sounded aghast. ‚ÄúDo you really think it was necessary to exert yourself so ‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúChair,‚ÄĚ panted the priest. ‚ÄúI need to sit down.‚ÄĚ He turned his head and peered at me with his baby-blue wrinkled eyes. ‚ÄúBut, I told you I‚Äôd make it.‚ÄĚ
I grinned. Volunteer Violet looked at the breathless priest, my family and the people behind us uncertainly. She was obviously as uncomfortable as my mother.
Almost on cue, my father was returning to the registration desk with my wheelchair. The priest pressed his chin on the desk and exhaled, ‚ÄúThank the Lord in Heaven‚ÄĚ and immediately plopped down into the chair, lifted his chin up to my Dad and said, ‚ÄúVery considerate of you, sir.‚ÄĚ
..... That's as far as I've gotten so far.¬† Any comments would be appreciated.