P R E C I O U S

My eyes were closed, and although an oxygen mask was covering my face, I could hear everything they were saying.

My oldest was in his fifties, and though he appeared to be the toughest of all the kids, he was actually the most sensitive and as much as the counselors had worked with him over the years, he still chose to bury his sensitivity beneath a facade of strength and anger. His brothers and sisters gathered around his chair to console him with the reality of my state. His voice cracked as he talked to them, and I could tell he was inconsolable.

Speaking of my state, I was on oxygen after a fourth heart attack, no longer able to breathe on my own. After the third, I told my cardiologist that coming in felt like getting a cavity filled because it felt somehow similar. I didn’t tell him I needed a root canal, but maybe I should have. More than anything, I was exhausted. If a heart attack doesn’t take your life, then it makes a pretty significant dent in your stamina.

My daughter approached the side of my bed and held my hand, and though I willed myself to squeeze hers in return, not a muscle in my body moved. A few minutes later, I felt a rollerball being outlined around my forehead, and though I tried to laugh, nothing happened. I’d introduced her to MYgrasticks when she was little, and at some point, she refused to go to sleep unless she’d been rubbed down in the scent of peppermint. She swore it gave her pleasant dreams and helped her tummy calm down when it got rumbly. Later on, she started offering to outline everyone’s forehead with peppermint whenever they visited. She’s a spitfire for sure, and though she’s married with kids, I know she can hold her own if need be. After a few minutes of me not moving, she started crying, and I could hear her husband console her before she stepped out of the room.

I keep slipping in and out of sleep. I’m not sure what kinda mickey they put in my iv, but the nightmares they come with don’t seem fair. Based on what I was hearing now, it was the nightmare that got me to twitching but here I am awake again and not moving or speaking. I feel like everything I want my family to know has already been said or written, and though I could have lived my life better, I think I did okay. I never stopped trying, hoping, praying, loving, giving, and forgiving. Someone once asked what I wanted my life’s legacy to be, and I guess that sums up what I hope to have left behind for my loved ones, but more, I hope all of ’em live as natural steroids to that legacy.

I don’t tend to want for much, never have in this life until I happened on a genuine hug once upon a time. See, I’ve hugged lots of people in my life, surely thousands and among them, I count only one real embrace. It was the kind of hug that shocks you into the submission of your mortality, helps you realize that you’re treading life and barely hanging on. It was the kind of hug that sees you drowning and steps up to be the only buoy to lift your spirit and offer a moment of rest. It’s a hug that arrives not because it thinks you’re going to die but because it knows you’ve got a long way to swim before reaching your destination so in genuine kindness lends you its strength while never asking for it back in return. It was the love in that hug that got me from that dark day to this final bright night and I’m grateful. I’m gonna sleep now until I find myself in those arms again.

My swimming legs are tired, and I’m ready to go home