Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Lighting a candle

Z is sixteen years old. Six months ago, his heart stopped beating. It didn't stop for long, but everything changed when it did.

After months in the hospital, he is home with his family.

His parents talk to him, suction his lungs, bathe him. They move him from bed to chair, and take him outside in the spring air. Therapists move him to keep his limbs working.

His friends play music for him. His mother reads aloud to him. His father watches football games with him.

I know about Z's progress because his mother M writes in an online journal shared with her family's friends and community.

I don't know Z very well. He's a couple years younger than My Son, so I remember him as one of those boisterious little kids in the lower grades at school, friends of younger brothers, part of a crowd of kids who shouted and ran and leapt and played at neighborhood gatherings, and startling people or making them laugh with their brash and infectious energy.

His parents are part of our community. Neighbors, we saw each other at community events, big parties, in the supermarket, at school. We attended the same New Year's Party every year.

While Z was in the hospital, his family stayed with him around the clock. Friends and neighbors gave them support, bringing in food, running errands, driving other children to school and activities. Some visited Z's bedside. Others could only stay in touch, pray, and hope.

When M's journal entry appears in my email inbox, I read it right away.

In her journal, M shares her fears, the daily chores, the logistics of caring for an almost-grown young man who is immobile. She tells us when Z's nurse says he moved his foot. When he has a fever. When he closes his eyes in pleasure to music. She talks about his doctors, their predictions. She reveals how she moves from hope to despair and back again.

How interesting that technology has made it possible for two contradictory things - one, the ability to keep up with people who are far away, but - two, reinforces the boundaries we create between us that we are afraid to breach.

I don't have M's phone number. I don't know her well enough to casually drop by the house, or telephone to inquire. I haven't seen Z since he came home. I once dropped off a basket of food. I write in the online guest book.

I am reluctant to pry. I am too timid.

It's been six months since Z and his family's life was irreparably changed. During the worst of his crisis, email messages urged friends to light a candle for his survival. I still light a candle when I think about him.

3 comments:

HRH said...

Oh my heart just hurts for them. What a difficult situation. What a strong family. Thanks for sharing.

KathyR said...

Oh, what a heart-breaker!

JCK said...

This is a heart breaking story. "How interesting that technology has made it possible for two contradictory things - one, the ability to keep up with people who are far away, but - two, reinforces the boundaries we create between us that we are afraid to breach." I loved what you said here. So true. Yet, if you didn't have the diary to read, and since you are not close friends, would you have this insight into their lives? Food for thought. Great post!