In Her Shoes
"We can't judge a person until we walk a mile in their shoes"
"...And if I don't want to wear their shoes, I have no place to judge"
"Yep, you said it sister."
The ending comments made between a nurse and myself at the burn trauma ICU at the Univ hospital in Salt Lake.
Nicole is a week shy of her 23rd birthday. She likes the color green and Hannah Montana. She loves sushi and holding babies. She does not like chocolate or egg rolls. She drives a hand me down green van and is absolutely fearless. And is completely in love with life. Nicole also is haunted by hallucinations and voices. Many times she gets them to go away only with her own pain. She has survived accidents, attempts and episodes I could never fathom up for my own life. Nicole is so much stronger, braver, grander than myself.
I went into Nicole's room at the burn unit today and I was so happy that she had more decorations from family and friends up on her wall and that she looked less swollen, not so "spread eagle" and didn't have any tubes in her mouth. So much more comfortable. The blue gown matches my eyes, but that's the ONLY thing decent about it. It's plastic and makes me sweaty and I have to take it off and get a new one every time I step out of her room. But I know she would do it for me. Her face is getting back to it's pretty state of normal and she flutters her lashes and wrinkles her brow when she hears my voice speak to her.
'Hello pretty lady.' I sit down. They take her away to wash her, redress her and make her smell so clean and girly. Her entire body is bandaged and covered sans half her neck and her head. They are so extra careful with her delicate skin, the little she has left. They tell me I won't see her again for another hour, but that's ok, I can work on my blankey I am knitting for her. It's soft, soft baby cotton, the color of cream roses and baby pink daisies. I'm hoping she will like it.
I watch Disney's Hercules on Disney Channel while I wait and look like a goofy granny in a 23 yr/old body sporting sandals and a blue plastic gown. I can't help but think of her throughout the movie. Especially when Herc sings:
I have often dreamed
Of a far off place
Where a hero's welcome
Would be waiting for me
Where the crowds will cheer
When they see my face
And a voice keeps saying
This is where I'm meant to be
I'll be there someday
I can go the distance
I will find my way
If I can be strong
I know ev'ry mile
Will be worth my while
When I go the distance
I'll be right where I belong
I am imagining Nicole on the ledge of that cliff with her arms outstretched and singing to the sun. I am thinking of her struggles and pain and all she has had to suffer and endure. I'm thinking how trivial my own problems become and how grateful I am for my working body, my skin, my teeth, my ability to walk and speak, my hair and my life. I am grateful for a healthy mind and think of how sweet will be the day when people will see Nicole for Nicole and not the cards she has been given. How wonderful it will be for her to see how many fans she has, to not have to suffer through physical, mental, emotional and social pain. I hope to be there. I hope I can prove I belong with her.
I also brought her these tiny posters I painted for her with sparkly stickers. I just know she'll love them. They are freckled with mistakes but I don't even think she will notice, she'll love them just the same. I hope my love is like that. Not examining the world and its creatures for flaws first but being so excited that it's there just for me, just the same.
I read to her from Heartbeat. Oh man do I love that book. I have read it at least 5 times and can never get enough of its childlike simplicity and poetry. How beautiful only a few lines per page can be. Nicole's heartrate goes up and pretty soon so does mine. I get scared that I'm making her too excited, that she loves the book almost too much. So I stop.
"Girlfriend, I don't like it when you do that. Maybe I'll just stop reading." Book closed.
She gently and slowly shakes her head. Finally! A response!
"Well then Missy, you gotta chill out. Sheesh."
I stay there for 5 hours. The time goes by SO FAST in that room! It's so peaceful and calming, and yet, quite stressful at the same time. My heartbeat rises every time a monitor blinks or a meter chirps. I don't want her to be scared and I don't want something to go wrong. I tell her about Tyler's visit to her house to see her Chiropractor poppa and I tell her about some of the kids in the burn unit relearning how to ride a trike up and down the hall. I tell her that I'm making something special for her birthday in a week and she better not peek at what I'm doing or else! I say her name a whole bunch and sometimes she opens her eyes for a few moments and sometimes she moves her lips, her eyebrows, her eyelashes. I call her Pretty Girl and Smarty Pants. I hope she remembers me when I come back.
I remind her about the time I visited her in the hospital a few weeks ago before the fire and how someone asked if we were sisters. I felt a flashback of the feeling of uncomfort and embarassment I felt as a fourteen year old when people thought we were twins/sisters and Nicole was so obnoxious to me. I'm much more patience and have admiration for her now, so I scared the feeling away. Nicole squeezed me from the side and said "No, she's just my BESTEST BESTEST friend in the WHOLE WIDE WORLD!"
I told her the same when I left her room.