Life as we all know it, here in college, has its times of stress, times of fun and times of discouragement. Many go about the daily grind of going to class, taking tests, drinking on the weekends, sitting through lecture and working part-time jobs while trying to get by. For now, this is the extent of our understanding in life and our common goal is for knowledge and graduation.
I was like most of you, thinking this was life; even thinking at times…that this was hard.
And then it was one of those days that you hear about, the day that “changes your life,” and I was forced into the harsh reality that this really isn’t life.
My opinions and priorities were forever changed when I realized that there is a hell of a lot more important things out there in this world. All of the long hours spent studying, partying, drinking, taking tests, listening to professors… this isn’t life, all it is, is somewhere in between.
Somewhere in between recess and the real world, adolescence and adulthood, thinking this is what the world is all about and then realizing that we haven’t seen anything yet.
Today is the 60th day that I have worn this orange plastic hospital bracelet, and the only detail is where a child’s name used to be printed in black ink. The black ink has faded and the edges have become tainted, leaving a dark smudge.
The day my nephew went into the hospital, my family promised we’d wear these orange hospital bands, showing our support, until he was able to go home. Thinking it would be a week at the most, it has now turned into the majority of his sweet young life.
The past three months have been spent sitting next to a baby boy in a hospital bed, listening to him breathe as machines click and beep around him, watching him get pricked and probed by nurses and doctors, and watching him dream peacefully as the child next door begs for more pain medication.
They have been spent walking down hallways of despair and sickness with images of children holding onto a life that doesn’t come with a guarantee. They have been spent in a terribly desolate place that keeps children as its prisoners. Luckily, these children are ones who refuse to remain captured; they are fighting for their lives and we are all praying, in our own way, that they make it.
I am the lucky one here – I get to come and go as I please. I am a visitor, an aunt stopping by for kisses and love, and every time I leave their world and drive back to mine, I can’t help but feel embarrassed and ashamed. Wanting to hide from the fact that the extent of my worries can’t even compare – and what I deal with on a daily basis is completely random to our entire existence.
I look at my brother and his wife, and I look at their struggles. I see how hard it is on them to have a child that hasn’t even been “home” yet and to have two baby girls who don’t know what it’s like to have a brother. I see how hopeless bills and payments seem, how scary the future may look and how tough it is to wake up every morning waiting for the day that good news will come.
I see how much love is in the reflection of their eyes as they hold their tiny boy. I see how much strength is needed to hold onto each other while holding onto their family. I see a baby boy who will be one of the lucky ones who will escape from that hospital, and will soon enough be giggling, playing and learning. I see them never complaining, just doing what needs to be done, and I see how tired they are.
This is life. This is hard.
Most of us have never felt this kind of tired. Most of us have yet to grasp what it is that we are supposed to be doing with ourselves. Most of us have yet to understand a perseverance and strength that is greater than a mere four or five years in college.
They have found themselves far beyond “somewhere in between,” and I only hope that when the rest of us get there…we will have the same understandings of the importance of love, family, friends, adversity, courage and compassion. I hope that we will find what it is that is most important to us in this life – that we will hold on to it and never let go.