Amy Ferris writes. A lot. She has opinions. Strong ones. She has a following. A large one. I am among her fans. She’s fun, interesting and provocative to read. I love that she uses the word fuck often, and with impunity. For some reason, this piece in particular spoke to me. Maybe because of what’s happening in the world right now. Maybe because I’m still grieving the loss of my mom; maybe because I always will. Maybe because I’ve had similar experiences that I couldn’t quite put into words, but that I immediately recognized in Amy’s. Whatever the reason, I’m pleased to be able to share this reflection, which I hope you will enjoy it as much as I do.
There is an interfaith chapel at the New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Hospital.
My best girl’s husband is very ill. Intensive care. I drove her into the city so she can be with him, kiss him, smooth his hair and look into his eyes and tell him how much she loves him; to hold his hand and watch him sleep. She couldn’t bear driving into the city, she hadn’t slept last night, and who wants to drive all alone for two fucking hours – 4 roundtrip – in traffic while your mind is racing all over the crazy-ass place.
I told her today it would be just like a girls day out, except, you know, without all the fun and the wine. That sounds peachy, she said, with an extra side of sarcasm.
I left them alone in his hospital room, while I moseyed on over to a fancy schmancy nail salon on the upper east side and told the mani-pedicurist to please, please, massage my feet for at least seven hours. So much nervous laughter; she had no idea if I was serious. And, why would she? I settled: 20 minutes and a pedicure. Heaven. Or for now, close enough.
My friend texted me: a half-hour more, please? She wanted a half hour more with him. To wash his face, and feed him some food, and you know, more time.
Who doesn’t want that.
I found myself sitting in the interfaith chapel. A place I never go into, never wander into. Ever. I sat in row by the exit door. Four men – all Muslim – kneeling on prayer rugs in the front of the chapel, praying in unison, as if it were perfectly choreographed. A beautiful black woman, impeccably dressed, across the aisle, her eyes prayer closed as she held onto – grasped – the cameo pendant around her neck. Two jewish women, maybe, possibly, a mother and a daughter, sitting a few rows in front of me, their heads slowly nodding, bobbing, speaking hushed words I couldn’t understand. A young white boy, a just turned teenager, his body rubbing up against the wall, as he fought back tears. A stain glass mandala, massive carved candlesticks, Giacometti-esque figures, a long narrow altar table draped with starch linen. Just the right touches. A small intimate room for personal prayers.
I closed my eyes, I thought of my friend, his joy full big life, his now battle, his massive bravery. All of that became my prayer. I thought of my gorgeous friend; her heart, her worries, her fears, her deep uncluttered and unconditional love for him; all of that became my prayer. I thought of Ken and his health and his worries and his uneasiness about showing, revealing, his frailty and how that keeps him more to himself and that became my prayer; i thought of some friends who I haven’t seen or spoken to in a while, and how in that moment, that exact moment, in that chapel i knew they were etched deep in my heart and nothing could or would change that and that became my prayer, and I thought of my mom and dad and I tried to imagine them together as I squinted real hard conjuring them up in my minds eye, and how on some days I longed for them and that thought led to my brother, and to my entire family, a family that is no longer, and for a few long unplanned moments I travelled from anger to resentment to sadness to peace, and as I stopped trying to imagine their faces, I began to wish them well and that became my prayer.
You can hear a pin drop.
And I thought about this world, our world, and the black woman praying across from me as she grasped her cameo pendant, and the young white boy velcro-ed to the wall, his bottom lip quivering; and the muslim men deep in prayer, and the jewish women reciting something under their collective breath while they now held hands, and we were all, no doubt, silently offering up our fears and our worries and our heartache and our greatest doubts and deep need for hope and comfort and ease and love, and rekindling – doubling up – on promises once made, somehow forgotten or lost, and bartering with the Universe or God or deities or cameos or Netflix or John Stewart or whoever you call it; bartering in hopes that what we offer up – exchange – will add more years more days more weeks more months – more time – enough time to make good, to say I’m sorry, enough time to admit fuck ups and fuck downs and fuck offs, enough time to mend misunderstandings, miscommunications; some scattered misfortune; enough time to say – ad nauseam, i might add – I can’t fucking live without you; enough time to love more, to love better, to get love right, to do it right; enough time to say I won’t let you go so fast; not so fucking fast. I got you.
In that chapel on this day with death circling every floor; the absolute take away: forever is not long enough.
Editor Amy Ferris is the author of Marrying George Clooney: Confessions From a Midlife Crisis, which was adapted into an off-Broadway play. She lives in northeast Pennsylvania with her husband.
Find her on Facebook and Twitter @amyferris.