Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake, I ask the Lord my soul to take.
I can’t remember the last time I slept. Truly slept. The kind of sleep that traps you in sweet oblivion and leaves you energized and relaxed when you emerge. The last time I let sleep wrap its arms around me, pulling me down into the cool sheets and soft pillow. The last time that I closed my eyes and didn’t feel panic’s tight fist wrap itself around my heart. The last time I didn’t fight to stay awake.
The last time that I didn’t wonder, even briefly, if the sound of my breathing would vanish in the dark with his.
Lying on the stretcher I watch her every movement. Plastic tubes uncoiled and wrapped around my ears, gently blowing air into my lungs and feeding my body. Her hands move quickly and her eyes stare into mine as she makes small talk. Wordlessly, I listen as she tells me that that we will begin when the doctor is ready and I see the question in her eyes.
I’ve done this before, but everything is different now.
“Are you nervous? It’s okay, some people are pretty chatty and others are nervous and don’t say very much. But it will be over before you know it and we’ll be here the whole time.”
The words are trapped inside me and my chest tightens as panic begins its all-too-familiar assault, the sound of my heartbeat roaring inside my head like waves crashing relentlessly against a broken reef. As I stare at her I hear the unspoken words that she can’t truly understand. That the sanitary smell of healing reminds me only of death. That the plastic bag holding my clothes is the same plastic bag that carried my husband’s home. That when they placed the band around my wrist it was as though I had been shackled. That I have not slept in days. That I spent yesterday writing letters to my children that would tell them how much they were loved.
The room begins to soften and I want to tell her that I cannot do this. That I cannot go to sleep. That I must wake up again. That I must stay awake for them. That if I stay awake they will never be alone. But the words are trapped inside, crushed under the roar of my heartbeat.
She wraps her hand around mine and the tears begin to fall as I give in to a slumber I can no longer fight.