About a week after being released from hospital, my friend S. urged me to stay with her and her husband P. Although our friendship had been kindled a few years before, I could not have imagined just how much healing would take place while I stayed at S and P’s home.
I met S. a few years ago when she joined the same women’s choir I was in. We had loads of fun and laughs at choir, occasionally heading out for coffee afterwards. We hit it off almost immediately and, intuitively, I knew we’d be friends. But what I did not know back then was how much closer we would grow during the many trying times we’d endure over the coming years.
The upstairs room I stayed in (aka the Zen Room) was an oasis of calm. Sunlight streamed in for much of the day, infusing the room with steady warmth. The shelves were lined with books related to healing, mindfulness and guidance. A small zen garden, candles, a gurgling waterfall and a small Buddha contributed to the sense of peace I felt in that space. Some mornings I would awake to the scent and overwhelming sight of a vase full of brilliant tulips. Oh, how grateful I was…
Like Goldilocks, I had a choice of 3 beds: a futon, a bit soft for my taste; a couch-bed, stiff like new; and the third, a rented hospital bed sunk in from overuse. Most nights I played musical beds, falling asleep in one, moving to another in the middle of the night and napping in the third midday. Most times, I could be found lying on my side, my legs wrapped around a lime-green fleece body pillow. It was the sidelong view of the wall across that most captured my mind and instilled in me a sense of grace and possibility: an ink painting of a nude woman, lying on her side, her back to me and exuding an aura of total relaxation.
And the food, glorious food. The aroma from S. and P.’s cooking would saturate the house, tempting my taste buds and luring me out of bed. They whipped up dishes with kale, sweet potato, squash and broccoli. I dined on grilled fish, chicken paella, curries and stew. I’d come downstairs in the mornings, long after S. and P. had left to work, to find a place setting with fruit, granola bar, a bowl for oatmeal or yogurt, and a thermos filled with hot water for tea. Just like soldiers, my vitamins were all lined up next to the plates. Those meals didn’t just fill my stomach and nourish me throughout the day; they helped to bring my body back to life.
Some days S. would leap up the stairs bearing heated or frozen gels, stories from her hectic day and a snack. She changed my sheets and brought more blankets when I was chilled. In those early days and nights of endless pain and despair, S. was always there to share her wisdom, sustain me with loving encouragement and a long hug.
S. ran errands for me, filled my drug prescriptions, and loaded me up with vitamins. She set up an appointment with her chiropractor and ferried me to his office many times. Convincing me that it was not too early to get in the pool, she drove me to one that had a hydraulic seat that gently lowered me into the water. And one day, she walked in loaded up with boxes of new sneakers – so I could try them on and compare styles and sizes.
Until I came to stay with S, I’d become somewhat accustomed to showering by placing a bench in the bath, and just barely perching on it. But it was awkward and terribly uncomfortable, and I longed for a bath. One day, S. announced that we were going to get a bath going. With equal measures trepidation and excitement, we started to plan for the big event. Out from the basement came the goodies, S. lugging all types of camping gear up two floors; a regular sleeping mat, an inflatable mat, fleece blankets, etc. She padded the bottom of the bathtub, unperturbed that all would get soaked. Before turning on the tap, she carefully helped me climb into the bath and covered me up partly with blankets. Then the waters came and I was filled with such gratitude and joy that I’m sure I cried – till we both laughed silly when the water threatened to lift me together with the nearly-floating mats.
To this day, I don’t quite know how they so graciously coped with me living in their midst for a month. I was blessed that I could call their home mine. I felt more love and compassion there than I could have hoped for. And still, every time I take a bath, I think of S.
Thank you S. Thank you P. Angels both.