Her wit. Her manner. Her sass.
All a perfect contrast to my super-drowsy and lethargic self.
A self that would explain why minutes after she brought me into the treatment room and I snuggled into the recliner, I began to doze off until I faintly heard…
“So what’s your story, kid?”
(She didn’t ask, “What is your diagnosis or your disease or your medical history?” But instead she asked, “What is your story?” This. Is. Why. I. Loved. Her.)
And so I told it.
“Oh honey, you are too young…”
“I know. But I also know that being here among all these sweet people fighting cancer, I am humbled. My tough stuff is tough. But there are things that are tougher.” She put her hand on mine and said, “I know. But everyone here has a different story. And I think you all are brave.”
I thanked her and then something in me quietly answered back, “But it’s still a good thing to walk around in someone else’s brave even for a little while, isn’t it?” Her eyes glistened a bit and so did mine. We sat there quietly for a moment and then she started my IV and let me drift blissfully off to sleep…
“Hey kid, are you doing okay?”
“Mmmmm, yeah…think so…”
“I’m gonna get you some warm blankets for you and some more pillows, you look like you need one for your back…make you more comfortable…hold on just a second…”
And I did not argue.
It was just about the time she put a divinely warm blanket around my neck that it happened. The entire contents of my water bottle knocked over with a giant “SPLOOSH!” And that was when she said it…
Now being the incredibly mature patient that I am, I begin giggling hysterically only to break out in a complete guffaw when a few seconds later, the nurse’s aide shows up and says breathlessly, “I just heard the ‘Well $#&%!’ and came running!!!!!”
GIGGLE. GUFFAW. SNORT.
It was when I nearly blew my IV, they both looked up from the spill and said in tandem, “We’re so sorry…that wasn’t terribly professional was it?” To which I giggled some more with a “Girls, if any place on earth needs a good “Well $#&%!” it is this place. For reals.” And then we all laughed until we nearly wet ourselves.
This little slice of real life.
Filled with tears and laughter and even a salty word or two.
It was just, well…so perfect.
Every one of us who had walked into a treatment room that morning were a little like that water bottle. Broken and spilled out all over the place. Totally and completely exposed and vulnerable.
There was no covering up our hard.
The IV poles. The canes. The puke bags. The masks. The bare heads. The dark circles.
It was all so gut-punchingly raw and out there and we all knew that an “Aww, crap!” didn’t quite convey the true weight of what was being carried.
We. All. Just. Knew.
But it’s in a place where the stakes are high that laughter and love and life are precious. They are God’s gift to us in the unimaginably hard. They remind us to get our head out our own stuff and to take the time to walk around in someone else’s brave.
If only for a moment or an afternoon or a day.
Just so that we can muster enough courage to live our own brave and to speak up when anyone asks…
“So what’s your story, kid?”