One of the most beautiful places I have ever been is "The Garden" at St. Louis Children's hospital. Part of it's beauty has to do with the hundreds of different flowers and plants, and the soothing water running through the middle. But the thing that makes The Garden so unique is it's ability to provide therapy for the patients and families at the hospital. If those flowers could talk...but that's exactly why it's the best type of therapy. It's a place that you can go to feel every emotion that comes with having a sick child, and you don't have to speak to anyone. You are free to really FEEL everything on a very raw level.
When Easton was in the hospital, I never left the grounds. And while that may sound sweet and sacrificial, in reality it wasn't very healthy. At times I felt crazy. I didn't sleep, or eat and I rarely went outside to walk around. The Garden became my sanctuary. When we got bad news, and I couldn't handle it anymore, I would go up there and feel what I felt was stifled by the walls of the hospital. I went there to cry and to scream, but also to smile and laugh. And sometimes I went out there just to breathe. I remember one moment when everything seemed to be falling apart, I went out there by myself and as soon as I stepped on that little path around the water, I was able to release a flood of tears. I called my friend Jamie, who unfortunately knew the pain of watching your child suffer. I don't even remember dialing the number. I just remember her voice on the phone, and then my voice as I yelled and screamed and pleaded for her to tell me how to deal with all of it. She just listened and said all the right things, and I will be eternally grateful for that.
I remember going up there another time and seeing all of these children being wheeled around in wagons. They were pointing to the flowers and laughing. I was so angry that Easton couldn't do something as simple as ride the elevator up 1 floor to come out and enjoy the flowers with me. And, I don't just mean "angry." There were times that I was seething. Every emotion was supercharged and lined with pain. I also felt fear... overwhelming fear that sucks the breath right from your lungs.
I remember then the first time they allowed us to take Easton to The Garden with us. Jeff and I were so excited to get him out of his room, but even more so to share with him the only place that had allowed for true BREATHING in the past month. We took the camera, and you would have thought that it was his first birthday! We took about 20 pictures of him outside enjoying the air around him. At the time I don't even know if he knew that he was outside. But we felt like it was such a huge step forward that we pretended that he knew exactly what we were talking about. We pointed out flowers and we showed him the fish. We held him in the swing, and we showed him big rotating ball in the water. That was 4 months ago.
Today, September 2, 2011, we didn't have to pretend. We had to return for a follow-up appointment and between office visits, we decided to take him out to The Garden. We pointed to flowers and he reached for them. We showed him the fish and he stood alone, holding onto the bridge and laughing at the water. We sat him next to the big rotating ball and he reached out and touched it with an ornery grin on his face. I laughed at him, and marveled at the progress that he's made in 4 months. This had been my dream such a short time ago. I had begged some silent power to let me see him enjoy this place that I'd grown to love so much. As I stood there feeling overwhelmed with gratitude and hope, I noticed the wetness on my face. I guess there will always be tears in The Garden.