Thursday, November 15, 2012

A wound fresh - after 17 years

It was a friend who pointed it out to me.

"The photo you use in your header looks an awful lot like Audrey".
And, upon closer consideration, she's absolutely right.

There is a general 'je ne se quoi' about the image that brings my experience with her out of the past and into the present.

Audrey was one of our dialysis patients when I was doing my 20+ year stint as the Renal Social Worker.

She was a failed renal transplant at another Pediatric hospital, with multiple complications that left her not only unable to be considered for another one, but intellectually challenged as well.

She was 6 - and 'sentenced ' to hemodialysis until some additional catastrophic event set her free.

Her family was rural - with all that implies: 'salt of the earth', 'down to earth', simple, hardworking, unsophisticated, good people.
We all adored them.

Audrey had darling red glasses and a quirky, high pitched voice which, during her dialysis sessions, would frequently ring out in "Donna, read me a story."

We were buddies and, while I loved spending time with her, she was an 'attention sponge' who could suck everything you had to give right out of your bones.

But it gave her mom and the nurses a break from her demands and I love to hours were spent sitting next to her chair, entertaining her with voices and variations on a books theme until she'd say impatiently "Donna, do it right; read it as it's written; you can't change everything!"

Frankly, at one point, she was one of the patients I was eager to escape when I agreed to go on my first European vacation with a friend.

10 days in Italy followed by 2 weeks in Switzerland - what's not to like about THAT, right?!

I wasn't quite as good then at leaving everything work related behind me as I am now, but, other than my kids, few people or work situations entered my consciousness the whole time I was gone.

Until our last night in Zermatt, in the shadow of the Matterhorn.

She came to me in a dream and I barely recognized her.

She looked SO good - and happy and healthy.
The color of her glasses was emphasized by the fact that she wore all white: a white angora sweater, soft and fluffy looking, with cables down the front; with those little angora hairs floating around her in an aura, and white wool pants; set off with red shoes, perfectly matching her glasses.
She was too damn cute!

I also remember thinking how impractical her outfit was since, on their farm, with all their animals, white wasn't even going to last a New York minute!

She said she hated to interrupt and she hoped I'd had a good vacation but I needed to get back.
She was fine, "better than fine actually", but her mom wasn't doing so well.
She said since I didn't have to read her stories anymore, could I do her a favor and call her mom as soon as I got back to work.

I woke up - bemoaning to my friend that my brain was already back in work mode and I relayed the details of the dream.
Neither of us got the implication.

Like I said: back then, I wasn't where I am now.
I wouldn't have missed it today.

I felt compelled to call her mom the minute I got back to work; that's when I heard the news.
Audrey had died the night she came to me in Zermatt.
Her mother was grief stricken to the point of being suicidal.
She had been hospitalized, medicated and released home.

I drove out to their farm the next afternoon - and told them about Audrey's 'visit' to me in Switzerland.
I think it helped - all of us.
Through our tears, we laughed at her wisdom that 'you can't change everything'.
You can only read it - and live it - as it's written.

And hope that, at the end, you get a great outfit like hers!

The memory of her still makes me smile.

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