Bear in mind, I remain firmly convinced that the ninth circle of hell is located somewhere in Fletcher Allen Hospital. Or maybe hospitals in general. And I don’t even believe in hell. There’s a lot of great people working there, and I encountered many of them this time — including lots of nurses wearing bright red pins saying “WE’RE WINNING” — but a hospital is a hospital.
And I was stuck in a room I’d previously been massively delirious in towards the end of a five-week stay from hell. This room:
I was forgetting things. Things like the redwoods. I knew they existed but I couldn’t remember them. I was forgetting who I was. Large chunks of my normal thinking were falling out. And I couldn’t fucking remember the redwoods. I knew I should know them, but I didn’t, and it frightened me.
It reminded me too much of the blank delirium. The kind where white blankness fills up more and more of the world until the world goes away, and you’re lost in the snow. I didn’t want to be lost in the snow.
So I was looking out the window one day and I saw this:
There was a child running and playing down there. I wondered how the hell you get down there.
A wonderful LNA — i’d name her, but I don’t want to invade her privacy — made it her personal mission to figure out how to get down there. I heard her asking around all day. She finally came in with a post-it with written instructions on how to get down there. It involved a lot of weird back routes. They don’t make it simple. The hospital is actually several unrelated buildings kludged together by a maze of corridors, with that unexpected garden in the middle of it all. I’ve explored a lot of the corridors, but I’ve never found the entrance to the garden.
Anyway, when my evening caregiver arrived to visit, the LNA and I were ready with a wheelchair to get me down there. She went over the instructions with him, and he pushed me down. We found it pretty easily, she gave good directions. I’d actually been very close to the entrance before, and never known it.
It turns out it’s this place called Peter’s Garden. It didn’t take much thinking it out to know that Peter must be someone who died.
You can read more about Peter and the garden here, it includes a link to a Powerpoint of the construction of the garden. From what I understand, he died in his forties of cancer and his family and friends raised the money to put the garden in. I heard later that the chemo ward overlooks the garden directly.
Anyway, I got up and walked around a little.
When my feet touched living soil, I could remember the redwoods. I could feel my body. I could remember who I was. I could feel the way things connect together again.
I still have big holes.
I still have gaps in my head that didn’t used to be there.
But something happened in my soul.
In the middle of that hell place, there’s life. There’s dirt. There’s plants. There’s beauty. There’s dead plants. There’s amazing flowers. There’s REAL.
Someone put it there, someone made it this way on purpose.
I’m really grateful to whoever decided to do that. And to the LNA who made sure I could get down there when I was losing touch with everything that mattered to me. It gave me back a lot of strength in a really scary situation. It got me through a night where every time I closed my eyes I thought a bunch of black blobs were coming to eat me. It got me through a tense, scary morning with an uncertain future.
The gaps are still there, the tenuousness of my health is still there especially now that I’m out of the hospital, the uncertainty is still there, and I’m not working with all the thinking I should need to survive what’s in store. But I can feel who I am, where I come from, and that can mean the world.