Remembering Who You Are
by Lindsey O’Connor
I do not remember the day, the moment, I ﬁrst remembered who I was or what was my life.
Before I was pulled back from the deep of a forty-seven-day sleep, before I understood what had happened while I slept or that I had slept at all, before the moment I saw his face leaning close to mine and before the long journey after my waking when I lost my way and myself, I knew where, who, I was. Other things, however, take a season to know.
On a crisp fall day in 2002 the whiteboard on the wall to the left of the sliding glass doors reads “Today is October 15th. Your nurse is Marsha,” written with the hasty scrawl of a busy ICU nurse, but I am oblivious.
“Honey?” he says. “Can you hear me?”
Do I hear him? Or am I dreaming his voice?
I hear muted sounds, voices, then they fade away into a faint ringing sound that rises like bubbles hitting eardrums as you sink below the surface; I am underwater, ﬂoating in the sea of alter-consciousness, bobbing in preawareness, an incorporeal, matter-less, drifting existence.
It is this voice that pierces the edges of my waking.
“Honey, can you hear me?” Tim says with an urgency I don’t understand, a near excitement. I do. Of course I can hear you, I think. Why wouldn’t I?
Then I see him, this man I married, this man I love, moving toward me and bending close, his square jaw, his blue-green eyes, soft, coming into focus. My ﬁngertips inch across wrinkled white sheets, then touch cold metal holding me in bed while wisps of cool air swirl around my neck, foreign and out of place, and a rhythmic mechanical sound whooshes in, out, in, out, inhale, exhale, amidst the smell of plastic and antiseptic.
“Hi, honey!” he says and strokes my hair, eyes locked on mine with a peculiar look on his face, intent, unusual, an expression that looks very much like . . . what? Like . . . devotion. Like the way he’d looked down at me the night we’d said goodbye after our wedding rehearsal dinner. Devotion that says delight and love and joy without a word. It startles me.
His caress on my arm and the look in his eyes engulf me. “Lin, do you remember that you had a baby?” he asks. The question hangs in the air, heavy, sodden.
A baby. Do I remember that I had a baby? Tick, tick, tick, the gears in my mind rev for a second, two, three, and I ponder this. Did I have a baby?
I lie in the bed with the metal railings and white wrinkly sheets and the nurse call button I’m unable to press, and roll the word “coma” around my mind like a child.
I look at Tim and see Brent Kinman, our friend and pastor, standing next to him. I notice his blue cap with white letters that pops with color in this white world, and his smile, both soft and intense, like he’s seeing something he can’t quite believe.
“Tim,” he says, “why don’t you tell her her story?”
Tim leans over the stainless steel railing of the bed on the second ﬂoor in the ICU and bends close. His eyes smile and his brow furrows.
Did I? Did I remember I had a baby?