“Oh, it hurts.”

“What am I going to do?”

“You’re killing me.”

“How do I get out of this?”

“I can’t stand it.”

“I can’t take much more.”

“I’ve got to get something done.”

This litany occurs when the pain control runs out, every two to three hours, especially after a walk, a therapy session, a shower, and any other time when the neck brace has to be removed and repositioned. These are hard words for any child to hear coming from Mother, and these are hard words for any mother to say, when she is a proud and independent 92 year old woman who now must wait for the hands of another to help her through unfathomable pain.

That she survived a broken neck in the first place is a marvel. “She won’t survive surgery to correct it,” the doctor advised. Therefore the counsel is to be patient. In three months the healing should be noticeable if it is going to occur at all. Meanwhile, the challenge is to keep a neck brace in position when it is held in place by easily removable Velcro straps, and her exhausted fragmented mind does not understand why it is there in the first place. The brace becomes the target of her anxious, continuously moving fingers, for which no ball or squeeze toy or curious object can substitute. Surgical tape wrapped around the Velcro frustrates her fingers, but they seem to have a canny mind of their own.

dock at sunset

You should see her when she is walking, bent over her walker, determined to go to the destination. Such a picture of resolve is hardly matched by an Olympic athlete. She concentrated on word-search puzzles when she felt up to it, once yesterday and once the day before. For thirty minutes yesterday she sat in the garden, enjoying the flowers and the 90 degree heat that others found unbearable. Then through the night she slept in five minute snatches and could not find a comfortable position.

We take our turns waiting with her, listening, and wondering. What will happen if no one is here by her side?