It's cool and misty. The rain has left a shimmer on the black roads. The street lamps make halos in the mist. My feet beat steadily against the concrete. The run's almost too easy now, despite Lexington's uneven terrain. I push myself faster up the hill, making it a short sprint, before I settle into a more even, less tiresome pace again. Idly, I consider the upcoming marathon. I don't feel like I've been pushing myself nearly hard enough lately. So, once I turn into the parking lot, I push myself to run faster, as if against an unseen competitor. I weave between the people coming and going with the change of the shift, ignoring the stares. When I finally reach the entrance, I slow and stretch before greeting the attendant behind the desk.
"Evening Connie," I pant.
"Evening Sarah," she sounds tired and bored.
I move automatically to the elevators, catching one before the door closes and punch a button. When the door opens, I saunter to the nurses' locker room. Shower and it's not long before I'm ready: sloppy scrubs, crocks, and a low ponytail. Before heading to my unit, I slip into the adjoining ICU.
Leaning against the doorframe, I consider the small, frail woman lying in front of me. She was the woman who loved my cousin Melinda and I with sweet cookies and hugs. Her once strong hands had kneaded Christmas breads with us. He once sharp eyes had caught every lie. She was the audience for our plays, the admirer of our artwork, and the cheerleader at our games.
Now she is a wilting flower. Her skin withered away from her bones. Her muscles shrivel as her strength fades. Her eyes are clouded with pain and medication.
"Sarah," she calls to me. I rush to her bedside, and hold her hand.
"Granny, you should be sleeping."
"I was waiting for you. It's so good to see you." Her voice is nothing more than a hoarse whisper. "You're so precious, Sarah." She pauses, "I sure wish Garrett was here."
Her statement takes my breath away, but I should expect it. Today's the day.
"Been thinking of him lately." She tells me, turning to look at me full in the face. "Know that you've been missing him, too. That's why you don't date anyone. You still love him."
I slouch into a nearby chair, "Garrett was a good friend."
"He was more than that. You loved each other. Everyone saw it. You guys just didn't have the time to find it out for yourselves."
"I did." I admit, "I do." I feel the truth pushing against the inside of my chest and consider my confidant. "He's alive, you know." I barely whisper the words.
She tries to lean towards me from her bed, "I know you've always believed that." She whispers back confidentially, taking my hand into her frail, paper-like hands. "Don't give up, Sarah. I know it's hard to hang onto what no one else believes, but the King will show you the way."
The King: my grandmother has always referred to God in such a manner. She speaks of him as if they have afternoon tea every Thursday at 3. Her faith has always been an anchor to her. It's inspiring, even if I struggle to accept an unseen, unheard deity.
"Okay, mom. Sarah has to work, too, you know." My Aunt Dixie chimes at the door before she bustles away.
"She's so pushy." Granny complains, but it's said with a proud smile.
I bend down and kiss the withered skin on her forehead. "She sure is." I agree as I tuck her blanket around her.
"Come, Sarah," she orders, her hands lifted to touch my face.
I sigh a little, but resigned to my Grandmother's strange display of affection, I kneel by the bed and lean into her hands. Her words are quiet and familiar, a blessing and a prayer for my safety and wisdom. My silent plea is raised with hers- a prayer that she'll strengthen and stay with me for a little while longer. I love this woman. Then I tuck Granny in securely and firmly tell her to get some sleep before walking briskly to the burn unit and my duties.
The day flies, as busy days often do, until I'm back in the nurses' locker room, changing back into my running gear.