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The last tape

2006-08-16 21:45

    The last tape

    By Nan Pinkston

    The bustle of the hospital was a welcome distraction as I opened my new patient's chart and headed for her room. My son, Eric, had just brought home a disappointing report card, and my daughter, Shannon, and I had argued again about her getting a driver's license. For the next eight hours I wanted to throw myself into helping people who I knew had much more to worry about than I did.

    Rebekah was only 32, admitted for chemotherapy after breast-cancer surgery, When I entered her room it took me a moment to spot her amid the bouncing forms of three giggling little girls.

    I told Rebekah I would be her nurse and she introduced her husband, Warren; six-year-old Ruthie; four-year-old Hannah; and two-year-old Molly. Warren coaxed the girls away from their mother with a promise of ice cream and assured Rebekah they would return the next day.

    As I rubbed alcohol on her arm to prepare it for the intravenous line, Rebekah laughed nervously. "I have to tell you I'm terrified of needles." "It'll be over before you know it," I said. "I'll give you a count of three."

    Rebekah shut her eyes tightly and murmured a prayer until it was over. Then she smiled and squeezed my hand. "Before you go, could you get my Bible from the table?" I handed her the worn book. "Do you have a favorite Bible verse?" she asked. "Jesus wept. John 11: 35." "Such a sad one," she said. "Why?"

    "It makes me feel closer to Jesus, knowing he also experienced human sorrow."

    Rebekah nodded thoughtfully and started flipping through her Bible as I shut the door quietly behind me.

    During the following months I watched Rebekah struggle with the ravages of chemotherapy. Her hospital stays became frequent and she worried about her children. Meanwhile I continued to contend with raising my own kids. They always seemed either out or holed up in their rooms. I missed the days when they were as attached to me as Rebekah's little girls were to her.

    For a time it had seemed Rebekah's chemotherapy was working. Then doctors discovered another malignant lump. Two months later, a chest X-ray revealed the cancer had spread to her lungs. It was terminal. Help me to help her through this, I prayed.

    One day when I entered her room, I found her talking into a tape recorder. She picked up a yellow legal pad and held it out to me. "I'm making a tape for my daughters, " she said.

    I read the list on her pad: starting school, confirmation, turning 16, first date, graduation. While I worried how to help her deal with death, she was planning for her children's future.

    She usually waited until the early hours of the morning to record the tapes so she could be free from interruptions. She filled them with family stories and advice?trying to cram a lifetime of love into a few precious hours. Finally, every item in her notes had been checked off and she entrusted the tapes to her husband.

    I often wondered what I would say in her place. My kids joked that I was like an FBI agent, with my constant questions about where they'd been and who they'd been with. Where, I thought, are my words of encouragement and love?

    It was three o'clock one afternoon when I got an urgent call from the hospital. Rebekah wanted me to come immediately with a blank tape. What topic has she forgotten? I wondered.

    She was flushed and breathing hard when I entered her room. I slipped the tape into the recorder and held the microphone to her lips. "Ruthie, Hannah, Molly?this is the most important tape." She held my hand and closed her eyes. "Someday your daddy will bring home a new mommy. Please make her feel special. Show her how to take care of you. Ruthie, honey, help her get your Brownie uniform ready each Tuesday. Hannah, tell her you don't want meat sauce on your spaghetti. She won't know you like it separate. Molly, don't get mad if there's no apple juice. Drink something else. It's okay to be sad, sweeties. Jesus cried too. He knows about sadness and will help you to be happy again. Remember, I'll always love you.

    I shut off the recorder and Rebekah sighed deeply. "Thank you, Nan," she said with a weak smile. "You'll give this one to them, won't you?" she murmured as she slid into sleep.

    A time would come when the tape would be played for Rebekah's children, but right then, after I smoothed Rebekah's blanket, I got in my car and hurried home. I thought of how my Shannon also liked her sauce on the side and suddenly that quirk, which had annoyed me so many times, seemed to make her so much more precious. That night the kids didn't go out; they sat with me long after the spaghetti sauce had dried onto the dishes. And we talked ? without interrogations, without complaints?late into the night.

    当我打开我的新病人的检查记录图表并朝她的病房走去时,医院里一片熙熙攘攘,分散了我的注意力,但我对此并不感到不快。我的儿子埃里克刚刚把那令人失望的成绩单拿回家,而我女儿香农则为了取得驾驶执照的事又一次与我争吵。我想在接下来的8个小时里把自己完全投入到帮助病人的工作中去,我知道与我相比他们有着更多的烦恼。

    丽贝卡只有32岁,她作过乳腺癌切除手术,现在正住院作化疗。当我进入她的病房时,我一眼看见她正被包围在三个咯咯笑着的活跃的小女孩之中。

    我告诉丽贝卡说我是负责护理她的护士。她向我介绍了她的丈夫沃伦、6岁的鲁丝、4岁的汉娜和2岁的莫莉。沃伦哄着孩子们离开她们的妈妈,答应给她们买冰淇淋吃,又对丽贝卡说他和孩子们第二天还会再来。

    当我用酒精擦丽贝卡的手臂,以便作好静脉注射的准备时,她神经质地笑着说:“我得告诉你我害怕打针。”我说:“当你还没有感觉到时我就打完了,我来给你数三下。”

    丽贝卡紧紧地闭上眼睛,低声念着祷词直到我给她打完针。然后她微笑着,使劲地握了一下我的手。她说:“你走之前把桌上的圣经拿给我好吗?”我把她那本用旧了的圣经递给她。她问我:“你有没有一节最喜欢的圣诗?”

    “耶稣哭泣,约翰福音第11章第35节。”

    “这是很悲伤的一节,”她说,“为什么呢?”

    “它使我感觉到离耶稣更近,使我知道他也体验到人类的忧伤。”

    丽贝卡深思地点点头,当我走出房间随手将门轻轻地关上时,她开始翻阅她的圣经。

    在随后的几个月中,我眼见她如何与化疗所带来的灾难作斗争。她住院的时间变得频繁起来,她十分担忧她的孩子们。与此同时我也全力以付地关注着自己的孩子们。他们经常似乎不是离家外出,就是把自己关在房间里。我留恋过去的一些日子,那时他们像丽贝卡的小女孩们依恋妈妈一样依恋着我。

    有一段时间丽贝卡的化疗似乎很起作用。接着医生又发现了另一个恶性肿瘤。两个月之后,胸部X光透视显示癌已经转移到了她的肺部,而且已是晚期。我祷告着:请给我力量来帮助她熬过这灾难吧!

    有一天当我走进她的房间时,发现她正在给自己录音,她拾起一叠律师用的长长的黄色信笺簿,伸手把它交给我说:“我正在为我的女儿们录音呢!”

    我读了信笺簿上列出的目录:开始上学、举行坚信礼仪式、满16岁、第一次约会、毕业。当我正思考着如何帮助她面对死亡时,她却已在计划安排她孩子们的未来了。 她往往是利用清晨的几个小时来录磁带,因为这段时间里她可以不受干扰。她往磁带里录了一些家庭故事和对孩子们的建议??试图把她一生一世对孩子们的爱压缩到宝贵的几个小时里。最后,当她把条子上的每一个项目都核对完毕之后,就把磁带交到她丈夫手里。

    我常想,我若是处在她的位置上我会说些什么。我的孩子们开玩笑说我像是美国联邦调查局的一个探员,因为我总是不停地问他们去了什么地方,曾经和谁呆在一起。我想,我向他们传达鼓励和爱心的话语在哪里呢?

    有一天下午三点钟,我接到一个从医院打来的紧急电话。丽贝卡要我立即送一盒空白磁带到她那儿去。我怀疑,她是不是有什么话题忘了录音了。

    当我走进病房时她脸上发红,呼吸急促。我把磁带装进收录机,将话筒对准她的嘴唇。“鲁丝,汉娜,莫莉,这是最重要的一盘磁带。”她握住我的手,闭上眼睛。“有一天,你们的爸爸会带一个新妈妈来家。请一定要使她感到特别亲密,让她了解如何照顾你们。鲁丝,亲爱的,每个星期二你要帮助她把你的女童子军制服准备好。汉娜,你要告诉她你吃细面条时不要放调味汁。你若不告诉她,她就不知道你要分开来吃。莫莉,遇上没有苹果汁时你不要大发脾气,你可以喝其它饮料。亲爱的孩子们,心里的悲痛总会过去的。耶稣也哭过。他懂得悲伤是怎么一回事,他会帮助你们重新变得快乐起来。记住,我会永远爱你们的!”

    我把收录机关了,丽贝卡深深地叹息了一声。她带着虚弱的微笑说:“南,谢谢你!你会把这盒磁带交给他们的,是吗?”她喃喃地说完后,就进入了睡眠状态。

    总有一天,这盒磁带要放给丽贝卡的孩子们听的。当我将丽贝卡的毯子抚平后,就急忙驱车回家了。一路上我想着我的香农也喜欢单独喝调味汁;她这一奇怪的习惯曾经多次使我生气,但是现在想起来却反而使我感到她是那么可爱。那天晚上孩子们没有出门;在吃完加调味汁的细面条之后,他们和我一起坐了很长时间,直到碟子中剩余的调味汁都放干了。我们一直谈到深夜,这次既没有询问,也没有抱怨。

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