the screaming man

Recently, my mother was discharged from a rehabilitation facility in Spokane, WA after a metal plate and eleven screws were installed in her ankle. While I could make the case that one can most certainly travel two hundred miles with weird insurance restrictions – it would fit the theme of the blog, right? – that’s not the point of this post.

First of all, a little background on my mother: rape survivor, former addict, former sufferer from severe depression, now a powerhouse of optimism and hellfire despite having very weak knees and fibromyalgia. I like to think of her as the kind of woman who, if encountered by the devil, would pinch his cheeks and say something like, “aww, look at you, thinking you’re all bad.” Naturally, when she found out that our uneven backyard would send her so far away from her family for two months, she was upset – determined to right the situation at all costs, but upset. Nevertheless, she went to the rehabilitation joint with the thought in mind that she was going to make the best out of it.

And she did. She made quite an impression. I’ve met some of the residents (and aides) who were mercilessly exposed to my mother’s “chin up, you sissy” demeanor, and the general consensus is that she did make the place brighter just by being herself. Though important, this is also not the point of the post. I’m getting there.

When she came back, she told me a story about one of the residents who lived there – I’ll call him George. He and his wife were in the same motorcycle accident, receiving similar injuries to their spinal cords as a result. His wife – with intense physical therapy, patience, and a mind-boggling amount of willpower – recovered. George, meanwhile, resigned himself to his condition – he refused to do therapy, as he didn’t see the point in it. His wife visited him constantly – but he resented her for her recovery in the face of his total disability. She left him; she couldn’t stomach the vitriol.

Every night, George would scream. “God, why can’t you just take me? Please let me die! Please! I want to die, God, can’t you do that for me?” Left alone to his thoughts, he was inconsolable. He was broken both in body and in spirit, and he refused to see the tiniest spark of life left in him as a beacon of hope. He was dying, he wanted to be dead, and he couldn’t fathom the cruelty of a world that would try to keep him alive. Bottom line.

George was taken to hospital one evening, and after a few days had passed, my mother noticed that someone else was moving into his room. When she inquired after him, the nurse bit her lip. “I’m not supposed to tell you,” she began, but thought better of it after a moment. “George died.”

He’d finally gotten his wish.

What a wish.

My mother would go on to work at her own therapy even harder. She reduced her predicted recovery time by a month, and even after, she refused to slow down. The residents and staff asked her, “Why are you pushing yourself so hard? You don’t have to keep moving all the time.” Or, “there are people to help you with things like that if you can’t do it.”

Her response was simple. “If you don’t keep moving, you die.”

So, yeah. If you don’t keep moving, you die. Pretty straightforward.

(Dedicated to every George, ever.)