I couldn't quite understand what I was happening right in front of me. Only the day before, my brother had seemed better. Stronger. Having a "good day." That morning, in spite of his J-tube balloon having burst, which would lead us to having to return to the hospital, he was stronger than even the day before. But on the way to the hospital, with my dear friend Carla in the backseat, my brother riding shotgun, and me driving as safely but as quickly as I could, he floundered. The entire spirit of him, like that J-tube balloon, deflated. By the time we got through the emergency room and registration, he could hardly hold himself up. As he leaned forward in the wheelchair, I rubbed his back, the bones of his spine and ribs forming sharp ridges and currents. I knew by the stroke of his breath that this was a balm for him; not only did it feel heavenly, but it provided human touch. And, more so than that, it was the touch of his sister who loved him dearly and wanted him to know the comfort.
Finally he was admitted to Room 689, his fourth room on the 6th floor in two months. While the nursing staff worked to get him settled, Carla and I went out to the car to retrieve his luggage. As we walked along the long, narrow hallway leading to the parking garage, we happened upon Dr. Barnes, Van's admitting physician. He recognized me and said, "Oh, good. You made it."
"Yes," I told him. "Van's upstairs now getting settled in while we head out to the car to get his luggage."
Dr. Barnes---handsome with gentle eyes and a close-cut beard---slid his hands into his lab coat pockets and sighed. Both Van and I---having met Dr. Barnes in previous visits to Candler---liked the good doctor a lot. He's the kind of physician who sits down. Chats about life in general (How to find the best food joints, etc.) before getting to the difficult stuff. You may have just met him, but you feel like you've known him your whole life, or that he's known you. "You know," he said, "there is not a doctor on our team who doesn't love your brother."
Tears burned my eyes and I blinked them back. "I cannot tell you how much that means to me."
"What amazes us most," he continued, "is his countenance in the face of death."
"That's his faith," I told him. "Van knows that this is not the end. He's just traveling through."
Dr. Barnes nodded. "Well," he said, "I'll see him upstairs shortly."
Minutes later, Carla and I returned to Room 689 with Van's luggage in hand. As I pushed open the door, I heard my brother say, "DNR."
The admitting nurse stood nearby with her fingers on the keyboard of her carted laptop. "Are you sure?" she asked. She looked from my brother, to me, and then over to the floor's charge nurse, a pretty young woman with all of life ahead of her and all of death at her feet.
I stepped around the bed, my heart hammering as my breath slowed. I blinked, fully aware of the magnitude of moment. Fully aware of what my brother was saying. What he was doing. "DNR," he repeated. "Do. Not. Resuscitate," he added, his voice strong, in case they thought he didn't understand the finality of the decision.
A few hours later, as Carla and I made our way back along the dark, narrow, and interminable roads from Savannah to Sylvania, I whispered, "I wasn't prepared to hear him request the DNR."
"I wondered how you felt about it," Carla said.
"I feel like he's taking control," I returned, "and he's taking it the best way he knows how."
After such an adventurous outing on Tuesday, Clare and I decided to sleep in on Wednesday. Take life a little easier. We woke at our own leisure, had our tea, our showers, and then ambled into Clare's office to write, each of us working on our current manuscripts. A few hours later, we slipped into our shoes and headed for Belfast's city "centre." We parked at Victoria Square Shopping Center---a mall. This, of course, is right up my proverbial alley. There was a new bounce in my step; I could feel my face growing brighter. One day, I fear, I will have to enter a program. "Hello, my name is Eva Marie. I am a shopaholic."
The shopping center (American spelling now) has over 70 international and national shops and restaurants. Because it was nearing noon or was, perhaps, a little after, I suggested to Clare that we begin with lunch. The first restaurant we came to was an Applebee's, of all things. But a juicy burger sounded
pretty good to me, so we went inside. Afterward, we went up to the Dome for a 360-degree view of Belfast. Clare pointed out the direction we would head next--city hall--an impressive and imposing Renaissance-influenced building that boasts statues of older, huskier Queen Victoria (front and center, of course), Robert McMordie, Sir Edward James Harland, as well as a most-astounding tribute to the over 1,500 who lost their lives on the Titanic, which was constructed in Belfast harbor before making its tragic trip toward America.
After enjoying the beauty of the day and the buildings, we walked past the Game of Thrones stained glass window, then back to Victoria Square and the car, and then drove to
C. S. Lewis Square, where I peered into "the wardrobe," wondering what adventures may lay on the other side. Could I see Narnia if I looked hard enough?
C. S. Lewis---a son of Belfast---is, of course, an icon of modern writers, especially the Christian writer. As we walked the gardened pathways and observed the various works of art dedicated to The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, which is part of Lewis's highly-read Chronicles of Narnia series, I pondered what it must be like to have created such characters---Aslan, the White Witch, Mr. Tumnus, Mr & Mrs Beaver (to name a few)---so beloved that, years after dying, someone is commissioned to create statues to their likeness. Their image. This is legacy, I think. This is living beyond the boundaries of the number of your sighs.
Belfast City Center
The Glass of Thrones in downtown Belfast, Northern Ireland
Another statue in front of the Belfast City Hall building.
An up close and personal look at the statue of Queen Victoria.
A visitor reads the inscription on one of the statues at city hall.
A gentle welcome to the C S Lewis Square.
Statue of Aslan from The Chronicles of Narnia series by C. S. Lewis