Dictated to a friend on Monday, June 29, 2015:
The day after I was told I would not be going home, Dad bought me a present from the Children’s Hospital gift store. As I unwrapped it from the gift bag, I started to pull it out. It was black, with white, it was some sort of stuffed animal. I was pulling it out from the backside, so I couldn’t see the face. From that end, I thought maybe it was a skunk (laughing)! I said, “It’s a…” and almost said, “skunk,” but when finally pulled it out all the way, I saw it was a cat. I said, “Thanks, Dad!’ The reason Dad bought me this was because I was upset I wouldn’t be able to be at home, where Muffy was. I was so used to seeing Muffy everyday, and him sleeping at my feet at night, plus the thought of just not being at home was really upsetting me. I usually don’t sleep with a stuffed animal, but there at Children’s, I started snuggling with a cat. Being a few years short of thirty (laughing), I felt I needed to justify why I was sleeping with a stuffed animal to the younger PCA’s as they helped me get ready for bed. I started explaining it to one man one night, and thought he might think it was kinda weird. I guess he probably was only in his early twenties, but he wrote on the green marker board, “That’s cool! How long have you had your cat, Muffy?,” and started a conversation about it. It was then that I decided to stop telling people why I slept with a cat stuffed animal and when I transferred here to the nursing home, I started using the cat stuffed animal as a pillow to prop up my chin at nighttime.
Since then, I’ve gotten a few more stuffed animals. Ironically, friends from home sent another cat: it’s orange and white, and from what I could tell earlier, when I could see color, had a pink nose. I thought this was kinda funny because there’s a cat that hangs around our house that I had named Sebastian. I don’t sleep with Sebastian, but he hangs out on the bookshelf with another stuffed animal present I got from my cousin’s prayer group. It’s a white bunny with long ears, and the night I got it, I was asked if I wanted to sleep with it (laughing), but I didn’t have any extra arms, so I said, “No.” I didn’t have any extra arms because of Teddy.
A few weeks ago, Mom and Dad were gonna be going on a week vacation. It would be the first time that I would be without them since moving in this place. Not that they have to, but they make it a point to come in every day to see me, and I was getting upset that I would be without them for so long. Mom and Dad helped set up people to come and visit so I wouldn’t be so lonely while they’re away, and by the last night, I was feeling pretty strong that I would make it while they were gone. The night before they left, Mom came a littler earlier than Dad, so when Dad came, Mom went home, or so I thought (laughing). When I finished talking to Dad, I beeped in to get help getting ready for bed. I wasn’t paying attention who was coming in, and felt Mom’s signing name on my forehead. I thought that was a little strange, but it was Mom. She had come back, and plopped something in my lap. I couldn’t really figure out what it was: then, she tapped “bear” on my arm using the alphabet from the communication system. I finally got his face and could see a big nose. “Thanks, Mom!” I said. And as Mom is leaving, she said, “This is something for you to snuggle with when you miss us, or just need something comfortable while you sit.” Mom was right. The bear was very big to snuggle with, and that night I started sleeping with it under my right arm, with the cat underneath my chin (laughing). The next day after breakfast, things started to set in and I really wanted to talk to Mom and Dad. I beeped in and asked if I could have the teddy bear. Only after explaining a few times why I had the bear did I stop and just started saying, “Can I please have Teddy?” (Laughing) It’s sorta different here, because I am the youngest, and I always cry anyway: I figured I didn’t owe an explanation of why I wanted Teddy. Since that week, Teddy has now become something more than just something to snuggle with: he’s sorta like my room mascot (laughing).
There are some times when Teddy causes trouble. He’s so big in the nighttime, as I try to position him with my right arm for more warmth and to brace my head on the right side, he’ll knock my nurse’s call button right as I’m all nice and snuggled and warm; the light comes on, and an aide comes in to see if I need anything. (Laughing) “Oh, sorry!,” I’ll say, “I was just trying to reposition Teddy.” There are also times when I position Teddy on the right side of my wheelchair, his feet or arms will knock into the table where my Tervis’ full of teas are: I’m surprised he hasn’t gotten wet yet, but I’m sure he’s gotten kinda dirty because he has fallen to the floor a few times. So he falls on the floor as I start to heavily sleep against the wheelchair. I try to pick him up off the floor, but usually have to ask for help. I feel kinda bad they have to come in to help do this, but sorta laughed one time when the aide left: I went back to sleeping on the arm of the wheelchair and felt the seat belt wrapped around Teddy (laughing). There are times now where I don’t even ask for Teddy, they just plop him in my lap on their way out the door! Teddy has been a thing of comfort and a shoulder to cry on and something to squeeze when I feel alone.
Lately, I have been having a lot more physical problems. I feel like when Mom and Dad come, my first agenda is to pour out my burdens on them before getting news of what they’ve been up to. I feel bad about this sometimes, because they already are carrying all the things that I can’t do as it is! Plus they have their own things and with the other sisters. Last night especially, I was having a really rough day. As Mom came in sorta late, I started crying and said, “Mom, please stay here a little earlier: where have you been?” She finger tapped to me that Dad has been sick. And then from there I started listening more to what she had to say. Then this morning I was doing a little bit better, but I still was questioning a lot of things. As I started talking to God, I was also drinking my coffee. I was so blinded with the light that I spilled it, even before I really got the chance to drink it. I beeped in and I said, “I hate being blind.” The aide reassured me with strokes on my hair that all was okay. They got me some tissue, new coffee, and put Teddy on my lap before leaving. As I started drinking my second cup of coffee, my friend came in, who I hadn’t seen in a long time. She stayed through lunch and we had a great talk. One of the things we discussed was Teddy (laughing), and also, how my eyes were doing. I gave her a brief update just in general on my health, and told her that I was still frustrated that most of the day all I did was just sit. I think, too, I’ve been going back and forth between still wanting to be home yet knowing I have to be here. I told her that I’ve been noticing the little things that have changed in me. We used to always say, “Bye, love you!,” when leaving, even if it was just going grocery shopping, but here I’ve noticed when I say “Bye, love you!,” I watch my family leave out the door, I surely mean it a whole lot more. I also told her that it has been the same with prayer. It was so easy growing up to say, “I’ll pray for you,” then totally forget about it, but here, when I say, “How can I pray for you?,” I surely want to know. Maybe it’s part of being cut off by the social world until somebody fills me in. As we continued talking, my friend tells me that maybe learning this deeper prayer is part of my ministry here. It all kinda goes back to what Dad was telling me, too, about learning to rest in Jesus. Maybe that’s why I still have a problem with restlessness, because I still want to do things, but realizing more that I cannot.
I did use Teddy a lot while Mom and Dad were gone. During that time, he was more just a shoulder to cry on and I really only talked to God about my own woes. But now, I still use Teddy and as I pray, I try to pray for those requests that people have shared with me. It’s almost like the way that I tell Mom and Dad my burdens: it’s not that Teddy carries my burdens, but he’s almost a tangible way for me to cry out and express my burdens to God. I know it’s old school, but once again, lots of songs have come to mind. We grew up with Psalty, the singing songbook. As a kid, we grew up on the cassette tapes and home videos; most had a storyline involving Risky The Rat, and Charity Churchmouse. But there was another one where Psalty takes his kids on a camping trip. On this trip, two kids get lost. They start singing a song called, “I Cast All My Cares.” I’m finding now that I snuggle with Teddy and start praying, I usually sing this song, because there really is nothing that I can do to help other people’s burdens when I sit in whiteness. For some odd reason, just knowing that I am praying and laying it at the feet of Jesus, it does make my heart a little bit lighter. Like I said, Teddy does not carry my burdens, he only carries my tears, but as I snuggle with him, he does bring warmth and comfort that I know I could get without him, but in some ways, it’s almost like giving God one big squeeze right from my wheelchair. We are told to carry each other’s burdens, but we cannot carry them by ourselves even then. When Mom first gave me Teddy and told me it was something to squeeze when I missed her and Dad, that was something of comfort. And I know that even though I also put a lot on my parents and family and friends, that even then their burdens can be carried, too. Isaiah 66:13 (ESV):
“As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.”
That’s what makes prayer so special, because it doesn’t matter who is saying it or how deep it is, it all goes to the feet of Jesus, Who knows it all anyway. And so now, I still have my rough mornings and long days, but I am trying to see what is truly important as the world passes by around me. There are always gonna be changes, even Teddy will one day change, and the more that my body does change, the more I am thankful that God does not!