It turns out I didn't need any words. All I had to do was listen.
"Guess who I just talked to!?!!" my mom's exhilarated voice rang over the phone line. I didn't have to guess. I knew. She had just spoken with my uncle.
"How did you know?" was Mom's second question. "I could hear it in your voice" was my reply.
Our hearts have been heavy with concern over my uncle these past few months. He has been hospitalized for over six weeks and we really have no idea how much longer he may need to stay.
He has been climbing up a slippery slope and for each hard earned step forward, it seems he has slipped backwards until he hits a precipice which stops his fall. Then he has to work forward from that new starting point.
The last time I spoke with him was three weeks ago. He may or may not have been at the top of his slow slide down that slope when we spoke. At that time, he said they were talking of letting him go home in about a week.
It was over a week later when I heard the next update. I could not have been more shocked and surprised.
Mental health is something of a mystery to me. The brain is a complicated and intricate organ which dictates 'who we are' to ourselves and the world around us.
It has been a worrisome time as we heard the updates to follow. My uncle's reality was skewed and he was (to put it mildly) 'not himself'.
When things went from bad to worse, a cloud followed me wherever I went. "Is this as good as it is going to get?" were the words that echoed within the vacant chambers within my own brain.
I processed how I felt about my uncle's 'broken brain' and compared it to Dad's brain injury (due to lack of oxygen). It wasn't the same. Dad's brain was physically unable to recover. My uncle's symptoms (while more mysterious and perhaps with the mystery came a brand new fear), were psychological. He could recover. Couldn't he?!
I chided myself for feeling like the naive 22 year old I was when Dad was first hospitalized. That was back in the days where I believed anything was possible if a person's body survived the first (near) fatal blow. If the body survived, miracles could happen.
A miracle did not happen for Dad. Could his brother suffer the same fate due to circumstances which were completely and totally different? No!
I couldn't believe it. I wouldn't believe it. I would allow myself to become that naive young girl again and hope. One can always hope!
The last update I heard was five days ago. He was able to hold a conversation with my cousin and she was over the moon.
My uncle called my mom last night. While things are still far from where they need to be for him to take another forward step towards regaining his independence, he is 'back'. He is still with us. He still wants to reach out and talk with us. He is still here!! In body and in mind.
My cousin (who has been walking at my uncle's side every step of the way) called me after I talked with Mom last night.
She talked for an hour. She said so many comforting words. Though she is now expecting the unexpected and has told herself 'one step forward; two steps back' is quite likely the way things will continue to go (at least for now), he is taking that one step forward. Again.
I knew hope was the way for me to go. I knew it!
My heart has felt heavy as I wondered what in the world I could do when almost two thousand miles separate us.
Then I thought of what I always think of at times like this. A letter. And pictures. I packaged up my little bundle of 'hope' and mailed it off last week. I felt better the moment I let that envelope slide into the mailbox. It wasn't much. But it was something. And it was all I could do.
My cousin said she told my uncle to just reread that letter any time he needs to. I can't remember what I wrote but she said the way I put things down in writing made sense to him. She told me he has been showing everyone those pictures. She could very well have been telling me that just to appease me and make me feel a little bit better. Whatever spin I decide to take on that, I just know I did all I could do and the reality is that my uncle has something to have and to hold no matter what.
It is not much. But it is something. Just as my uncle has those pictures and that letter to hold onto, my cousin, my mom, our family, anyone my uncle has been able to talk with and I ... we all have those words to hold onto.
Words. Spoken, written, sung or even those we have wafting through our minds ... words hold such power.
The power of those two conversations long after I thought I was ready to call it a day last night will sustain me until I speak to my uncle again. Which if all goes according to plan, should happen this upcoming weekend. Even if all doesn't go as planned, it means the world to me that he is asking to talk with me. His wish is my gift.
It was much better news than I dared to hope for. But I hoped for it anyway. "Thank you!"