The Little Laughing Boy and a Butterfly Man

18 08 2011

Last week I had to call an ambulance as I woke up struggling to breathe. At the local ER, the doctor tells me I have viral asthma, tells me I am exhausted, dehydrated and essentially need bed rest and re-cooperation. He gives me regular drugs, and I lapse in and out of sleep, awoken by alarms, many false. I am prodded and poked and needled.

Propped up awkwardly on the narrow ER bed, I hear a little boy laughing like he is being tickled. I am surprised to feel his laughter is making me feel incredibly sad. Perhaps it’s the drugs, perhaps I am in a state of delirium, I don’t know. But later, the same little boy (about 3 years old) walked past my cubicle with his dad and older brother in tow. As he walks by, he coyly turns only his eyes towards me, waves, and skips on happily. I sit there in a daze wondering why he did that. He didn’t know me at all, but I knew he was the same little boy who had laughed earlier. Why did he wave at me? Every day now I think about him, and I am completely perplexed. This memory makes me feel happy, and sustains me as I think upon it during my stay in hospital, and smiles me still.

It took 5 days in the hospital before they were happy for me to go home. I was mortified at first, as I am a do-er, a constant thinker, and I get bored easily. My iPod and mobile phone had little charge left, so I tweeted out a few drug-addled tweets and, well, basically slept away the first two days oblivious to everything.

I was admitted to the short stay unit at first, so I thought, ok a couple of days and i’ll be home, but on the fourth day they admitted me onto the Ward for Physio. Thank god I only had to stay one day and night there. It was awful and noisy and they were understaffed, and by this time, all I want to do is go home, not listen to across the hall Colleen, coughing up a lung begging for a cigarette at 1am in the morning with the Nurse telling her no and why in a booming voice. 1am in the morning! My fingers itch, I ring the nurse and ask her to tell hacker lady and booming nurse to shut up! I am at my wits end. Colleen gets a filthy look from me the next day.

Circling back a day to the quiet, caring and attentive Short Stay Unit. On the fourth night, I was up late watching a bit of tv, passing time, and I notice an old man talking to the nurses at the nurses station. My nurse, Hilda, comes to me and tells me he was a recent patient (he even still had his hospital band on). He wants to give something back to the staff, so on his release from hospital, he starts to make pleated butterflies. He also wrote some verse to go along with them. His plan was to give them to the nurses, as he felt they saw a lot with their job and wanted to give them a gift of ‘unburden.’

Hilda asks me if I would like one, says she has asked him if he would give me one, that it would cheer me up, and proceeds to read me the verse. I tell her I would love to have one of his butterflies. I watch him smile shyly as she tells him, and he moves slowly towards my bed. He and another Nurse bring in two boxes of butterflies, about 40 in all. So many to choose from. Each one he tells me takes an hour to make, and says ‘choose one’. I umm, I ahh, and look them over, and finally decide upon one. I’m in no hurry. He hands me a sheet of verse and tells me ‘This will help you as it’s helped me’. I place the butterfly on top of the verse. They go together. I tear up as I watch him begin to walk away. Here was a man who is so grateful to be alive, that he wants to say thank you in the most personal way possible, to making something with your hands, and write something from your heart. I summon up a little courage and say ‘You are a very special man, thank you’. He looks down shyly, and says ‘thank you.’ I don’t think I’ve ever heard those two words said so gently, humbly, beautifully.

Since my fathers passing, everything seems so alive, so bright, so painfully beautiful.

[I should split this into two posts, but i’m too tired, and somehow, they go together, young and old].




4 responses

19 08 2011
Gabrielle Bryden

Lovely post – funny how laughter can make you sad, something to do with contrasts I suppose or looking in on someone else’s life as an outsider – glad you are getting better 🙂

20 08 2011

Hi Gabrielle, nice to see you here in my little patch. Though the little boys laughter made me sad then, it smiles me now that i’m down the road a bit. Sometimes memories can be kind when they re-visit.

19 08 2011

Lily, this post really moved me a lot. It doesn’t surprise me at all that you should have such an encounter at hospital that is poetic, inspiring and heartbreaking all at the same time.

‘Since my fathers passing, everything seems so alive, so bright, so painfully beautiful.’ I know this feeling. It is as if everything is put into relief. There is a clarity that is unexpected and startling. Thank you for sharing a very moving experience.

20 08 2011

So far this year has had the potential to make or break me. I’m not sure which, it’s not over yet. One thing I do know is that I’ve been a Phoenix before and i’m counting on those resurrection powers again. Doors have closed and doors have opened. I’m strolling the halls, reading door signs and peeking through keyholes Selma. 🙂

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