Letters to Luthien

Letters to My Future Bride

Just Another Day

Dear Darling,

I’m sorry. I know today must have been at least a little unkind to you, if for no other reason than because you were alone. With valiant shades of pink, red and purple, with confectionery treats and horticultural blessings abounding and a dance floor full of fools, floozies and lovers and a tune you love, it’s hard to bid your feet be still. Truly, I wish I could have been there for you, to rescue from it. It may not have been a night to be carried away on a violet cloud of emotion and sentiment, but it could have been a day to spend together, or a chance to grow fonder. Instead, we spent it apart.

I’m so sorry.

I dearly hope you made at least some use of it. I? Well, I spent much of its darker hours in the Houses of Healing, and some of it at rest afterward. Actually, it was another overambitious play for study and work, beginning with a live simulation in the morning, a hasty lunch, a work-related training module and then sixteen hours across two different floors. This was followed by a swift breakfast and two hours of lecture for which I could scarcely stay awake.

By the time I wearily rolled to a stop, it had been a straight twenty-eight hours without rest, most of which were spent either with schooling or working. It was the kind of long day and night where you wish and hope someone will be waiting for you, to feed you and praise you and put you to bed. Someone who will show appreciation and pride and gratitude for your hard work, taking pride in a husband so fine as to give so deeply of himself daily. Not too long ago, a friend exclaimed “night shift is hard!” This is a truth with which I am intimately acquainted, but hearing it validated for the first time was gratifying. Before then, it was borne as truth that is silent and unacknowledged.

It’s a different world there Darling. Truly — a different world. Here death and his enemies dwell together, fighting a unique and often unseen war, behind the curtains where society shouldn’t look, and often family members dare not.

There is a brink and a chasm between life and death and standing in that gap are the healers charged with keeping as many souls on this side as they can. We see how fragile life can be…and how tenacious. Sometimes it comes down to the balance of a hair…a balance whose weight rests heavily on all of our shoulders.

There is no makeup, no hiding, no masks. Modesty, propriety, our public game faces, all are left at the threshold. Errors paid for in blood and death.  Wounds seep, tears are shed and cries of pain echo. Their worst day is our everyday. We exist to lend grace and dignity in their most undignified moments, making the best of a bad situation. We are professionally and habitually unselfish. We put ourselves dead-last twelve and fourteen hours a day. We routinely, habitually and completely empty ourselves every shift. We surrender sleep, sanity and self to make our patients feel better. Our every day is the occasion to which others would have to rise.

I’d like you to be able to take pride in what your future husband does, my dear. That’s why I tell you this. No one wants to feed one’s own ego with self-placating praise, but we all need to hear that what we do is important, that we’re making a difference and our time isn’t wasted. When no one else (outside of the Houses themselves) understand this, one may resort to assuring himself of that fact. Healing is never “just a job.”

It is of course difficult to inflate one’s opinion of self-worth when one’s tasks frequently include the most menial of assignments, lowly of patients and basest of filth. And yet, it is difficult to diminish one’s worth when its direct results are seen in relief, gratitude and improvement in the condition of human suffering. In short, it’s meek work, but it always makes a difference, and if no one else tells us that, we have to tell ourselves.

I’d like you to be nurturing enough to know I am spent or weighted down and feel it incumbent on yourself to respond, whether by feeding me and then laying my head in your lap and asking what’s the matter, or by lovingly ordering me to the destination for which I was already bound.

We all need to be held. There is no substitute for arms full of compassion and willing to hold you for as long as you need it. Or so I’m told. I’ve never been looked-after in such a way. I hope I can look forward to it. I certainly know you can, and God willing by the skilled and well-taught hands of someone who knows.

It snowed again tonight. I spent some time with Loswen, Alegfast and their friends, before accepting the invitation which dispelled the last six weeks of silence between my family and I. I hope and pray those wounds, though maybe not forgotten, can be recovered from.

I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you, my dear. I’m sorry today was just another day. I promise I’ll make it up to you in the days to come.

Fondest thoughts from far away.


February 15, 2014 Posted by | About Me, Holidays, Loneliness | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Long Night’s Labors

Good morning, Luthien.

Rise and shine! The night is ending, the sun is rising to set the indigo sky on fire and a new dawn awaits you!

Actually, I hope you are staying in bed and enjoying these mornings. After all, the dawn’s greatest promise for me is an end to the night’s toils and being relieved of duty to go home. Of course, it won’t be home much longer. (The new lodging has a fireplace!)

It was quite a night. I rarely sat the entire twelve hours. They were glad of my company, but I’m afraid I could not say the same for them. They were crass and profane and discussed sex positions to the same degree as the last time I worked this floor. I work them all, you see, and often I never know which it will be until I arrive. Who ever thought a hospital would be home for me? But now here we are, two years later and this place really is my turf.

This floor is for injuries of all kinds. The stories can be devastating, but also optimistic, because there is reason to hope they will heal and restore a normal function. Tonight I nearly cried with one of them, a gentle man whose wife died in the car accident that put him here. Forty-four years they were married, and here the scars of abrupt and terminal deprivation is not yet two days old. It’s never easy to know what to say to someone like this. What can you say? “I understand”? Of course not. He asked if I was married and I told him I wasn’t. I asked him about his bride. He truly despaired and didn’t want to continue without her. How could I blame him? For all I know, I would feel the same way. There is no easy way out of such torturous, precious pain. It doesn’t hurt the heart…it becomes the heart itself, infusing every fiber and filament of our being with pain and ache, powerlessly grasping for some strand of fate by which to unmake the horrible events branded into the pages of history. My heart goes out to him, but I think in telling me some of his life, in having someone take time out of a busy night to kneel by his bed and listen for a quarter hour, it helped.

The view up here really is among the best in the city. Seven flights down, I have an aerial vantage of the surrounding houses surrounded by a frosty coating of snow, and the road stretching off into the distance with what few cars have business on the roads during these wee hours. It’s not unlike a Christmas village. It makes a body wish he could fly.

A cold drive is answered by a hot shower and warm bowl of oatmeal. I’d have had a hot bowl waiting for you too this morning, if you’d been here. I’m sure there will be plenty of these nights in our future, when the honeymoon ends and I return to work. I’m sure I’ll come home tired and maybe smelling less than optimally. Who knows what germs cling to the fabric of my scrubs, so of course I’ll wash. But maybe you’ll have breakfast already for me, or at least you’ll sit with me and drink your coffee while you hear my stories. (You’ll never want for good stories at shift’s end.) Maybe you’ll still be in bed by the time I’m ready to crawl in. Maybe you’ll turn toward me in the growing light. “Did I wake you?” I reply, concerned. “No,” you can reply, tracing my chin with your finger. “I’ve been waiting for you. Why am I always waiting for you, Beren Estel?”

Only because I haven’t found you yet, my dear. I’m still looking, and still praying. I am friends with the lady who cuts my hair, and she called last night to suggest the granddaughter of another client I’d met in passing, who all agreed I was a “very nice young man” and perhaps worthy of their granddaughter. Of course, you know I’m skeptical of such arrangements, but it needn’t matter right now anyway. Whether or not you are waiting beneath the sheets, I am ripe for them from a long night’s labors.

Be warm and safe today my dear. Don’t work too hard.


January 8, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness | , , , , | Leave a comment