Steven and Sean on the Polar Bear Cam
Steven and Sean on the Polar Bear Cam

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Looking Inward, Reaching Outward

Today is Fat Tuesday, when Mardi Gras celebrations abound.

At St. Jude, they had a big parade today, think kids in wheelchairs, wagons, tricycles, pulling IV poles, everything decorated, the hospital personnel handing out candy and beads.

In the local schools the kids make masks and have parades. It's a big deal, everyone participates.

Here in San Diego, there's a big party downtown in the Gaslamp for adults and that's pretty much it. I don't think most of the kids around here have the faintest idea of what Fat Tuesday is about.

Fat Tuesday here in San Diego was a beautiful day, picture-perfect and clear. I took a long walk by myself on the beach, something I haven't done at home in over a year.

I'm still in my post-Memphis funk, which usually lasts a week or so after I get back, a time when I work a little and go out of the house only when necessary, kind of like an agoraphobic.

St. Jude is a wonderful and supportive place, but like any place where such intense emotions run rampant, it's haunted, and the ghosts fly home on the plane with us and stay with us for a bit after we're home.

Our own ghosts are there, and those of our friends, with and without hair, the room they got sick in, the couch they laid on, the pain we felt, the tears we cried, along with our laughter and moments of joy.

The angels are there too, we see Byron and Garrett and Courtney and Josh and Hannah and Aaron and Zoie and Morgan and others too many and too sad to mention, we pass the rooms where they lived, we sit in the same chairs they sat in when we were all there together.

On our most recent trip, we watched a family that we didn't know be escorted into the same exam room we were in the day before, accompanied by the chaplain. Steven's doctor and his nurse popped in a moment later. The door opened some time later to the sound of quiet sobbing, hugs all around, the family leaves, still accompanied by the chaplain.

The ghosts of that family will always haunt that room now, and they join the ghosts that accompanied us back to California.

I wasn't completely alone on my walk, the ghosts came along too. Everyone enjoyed the beautiful day, the crystal clear skies and the sunset over the ocean.

So tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Lent is, more than anything else, a time for looking inward and reaching outward.

I think looking inward and reaching outward would probably be a good thing for both me and my ghosts.

So here's to Lent.

- Kathleen

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