Lost and Found
Four years ago I was blessed by what I can only describe as a miracle. A dear sweet friend of mine who had years earlier suffered grave injuries that left her in a coma had suddenly and inexplicably come out of her long sleep. I remember that day so well. The vivid color of the sunset, the taste of everything made new again, and the music – sweet music – like every note was written to accompany the rush of emotion swelling inside of me. And then there was her.
To look into her open eyes and see her smiling back at me was simply magical. I went to visit every chance I could, and after several weeks, she had regained the strength to walk again. I remember the first day she came to my house and I made us apple cinnamon tea and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and we talked and laughed for hours. She seemed to me to be the same girl as I had remembered from our youth, but now with something more. She gleaned some sort of wisdom while she was so long away. At first I questioned how this could be possible, but dismissed it for there had been so many un-explained events. Now was not the time to question why or how – it was simply a time to be thankful and enjoy every minute.
We carried on for many moons, catching up and making new memories. I would tell her of all the things she missed and in return, she made up stories of grand adventures she had been on. At times her stories had so much fine detail, I almost believed they were real. I would get lost in hearing her talk about being in some far-away land and setting sail on a ship named The Ancient Mariner. She had bartered jewelry for shoes using a foreign language she barely knew and had once washed dishes in a restaurant for a month to earn enough for a bus ride to a different city. She had met so many people and even narrowly escaped death a couple of times. I remember thinking she was lucky she was alive – and then reality would shake me and I would remark, she IS lucky she is alive.
After some time, all the stories had been told and some of them more than once. We started seeing each other less and our visits, which were once a necessity, fell victim to the heavy burdens of a responsible life. I would often make a mental note to call or text and set up a lunch date, but that task often failed to rise to the top of the list. I’d promise myself that tomorrow would be the day. Then tomorrow would arrive along with it some other important thing that became a priority. Before I knew it, four years had come and gone. Time is funny that way. In what seems like the blink of an eye, months and years can pass.
Then a couple of weeks ago I got the call. She’d been on a walk and collapsed just outside her house. “Too soon to know the exact cause”, they said, “Better come to see her now”. I immediately had horrible flashbacks to the time before her coma. I had to gasp for air and felt as though someone had just punched me in the gut. All I kept thinking over and over was “not again”. I did not know if her body could handle whatever was happening – I wasn’t even sure if I could. I rushed to the hospital.
The way she looked was so similar to how she was before, I could hardly look at her. I had to force my eyes to stay open as I went to her side. She was awake, but just barely, and she nodded at me when I clasped my hands around her hand. I struggled for words but still the only ones I could conjure were “Please, not again”. She blinked at me and nodded once more. It was happening again, and there was nothing I could do or say to change things. Every second that went by with her hand in mine, looking into her eyes, felt like lifetimes of happiness being drained away. So many possibilities, and now, they were all but gone.
In the corner of her eye I could see a tear forming. It was like she knew what I was thinking and without the ability to speak, that was the only way for her to let me know she understood. “Please”, I begged again. This time, it was more of a plea to a higher power. Some force in the universe that had seen fit to let her return once could surely hear me and stop this from happening again. I felt suddenly weak and the nurse that accompanied me into the room must have sensed this and pulled forward a chair for me to sit.
As I did, I lay my head at her side and began weeping. I knew she was slipping away and it was only a matter of time. The waves of emotion began crashing upon my heart like the ocean upon a creature somehow trapped on shore. Steady, methodical, relentless – each one worse than the last leaving me wishing for an end. Any end.
In my quickly weakening state I bargained. Let her stay and go on walks and share her stories around a fire. Let her have real adventures and see the world and experience all that life has to offer. Let her live and take me instead. I’ll do anything not to suffer through another wave crashing on me, drenching my soul and suffocating my heart. “Please”, I remember saying out loud just before I went under…
When I came to I was face down and wrist deep in sand. I tried to move but when I did I discovered I was not only weak but extremely sore. Every bone and muscle in my body felt as though it had struggled for days. I could hear the sound of waves crashing behind me and though I vaguely remember the waves, something was not right about that. How could I have felt the waves but not heard them until now? My brain was struggling to make the sensory input make sense with the other facts it knew to be true. I had to see the waves to trump the confusion and disbelief.
I summoned the strength to push myself up onto my hands and my knees and with one giant effort I flipped myself over into a sitting position. What lie directly in front of me was a short stretch of land met by water that went out as far as my eyes could see. It was at once both beautiful and terrifying. As I tried to catch my breath my eyes scanned from side to side and spied a boat not more than twenty feet down and to the right of me. I gasped once more as the words written on her side came into focus. The boat before me was “The Ancient Mariner”…