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.

Love,
Beren

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

How Was Your Day

Dear Darling,

How was your day?

I look forward to asking that question of you, of walking through the door, closing it and the world behind me and returning to the cloud on which I live, the one where dwells a wonderful woman who loves me and is pleased to be called my wife. I’ll love hearing your voice greeting me through the house. I’ll probably begin washing the dishes while you finish preparing supper, unless I’m lately come from the hospital and need showering first.

I’ll quietly revel in your trust and confidence in me as you share your day’s ups and downs.

How was your day today? What dragons did you face alone, what cares did you bear, what burdens did you carry? What tears were unshed because your husband wasn’t there to hug them out of you and then kiss them away?

And to think, somewhere out there tonight you exist, burying your toes into a carpet or curling them up underneath you to keep warm. (Lucky, lucky toes.) You may be studying, or working late, or cooking, or grimly eyeing February 14th’s approach. I don’t hold out great hopes for this Valentine’s Day, but I have a good feeling for next year.

Someone asked me the other day if I was still changing the world. I may not be changing the world every day, I replied, but hopefully I’m changing someone’s world every day. And that’s enough for now.

On my way out last night, I walked past a woman leaning against the wall with her back to me, weeping. Such sights aren’t entirely uncommon in the hospital, and healthcare veterans must eventually make their peace with the reality that there will always be someone else who needs you. I almost walked past her. Then I realized no knight, whether arrayed in armor or scrubs, could suffer this woman’s grief unchecked in this empty hallway. Beyond asking if she was okay, I pulled her in for a hug, inquired about the problem, and wished her well.  I wish I’d said more to her. I should have told her that God is all sufficient and will give strength to His servants. I wish I’d told her that she would be okay again, and that she would be strong enough for the darkness ahead of her.

Time gives all and takes all. It’s time that is our ally and our enemy. Have you noticed? Sometimes our memories, or time’s passage, are traps for our minds because we remember how things were. Sometimes those memories return too late, showing us what was important at the time even though we didn’t recognize it. Sometimes, we process things slowly, not understanding how we feel. We only know a moment’s worth once it’s gone.

Now that I’ve cleared the first hurdles of this term, it’s time to ramp things up. At the start of the week I had a morning class, an exam, a gym workout, a swim, a Bible study and then two hours at work to cover for a colleague before coming home to bed. In five hours, I was up before dawn to spend half the day apprenticing. The other half was spent working. The schedule was much the same today except I was invited to hear a would-be senator speak. Tomorrow is another several hours spent learning before I work an overnight shift for another colleague. This weekend, I ride a helicopter with a trauma nurse and probably do even more work and study. If idleness is the devil’s workshop, I don’t intend to give hell’s hobbyists much room.

When I was younger, I used to think everyone else knew what they were doing and I was one of the few that didn’t. It wasn’t until it dawned on me that half the people around me were as clueless as I (and another quarter of them were more clueless) that the light bulb clicked on. No one was going to come along and give me answers, motivate me get fit and eat right, or give me a job. Within submission to God’s will, I had to create those opportunities for myself. No one else was going to introduce themselves first, so now I do. It seems to inspire a confidence that others appreciate. I wonder if there’s any way I can make that light come on for our children earlier than it did for me?

Everyone complains about the cold, but tonight in The Village where I live (it really does somewhat resemble a Bavarian village) the icicles coat every eave like a painting or a decoration.

I should sleep. I’m afraid I’m rewriting most of this letter from memory after I all but completed it last night only to have it erased in a spontaneous reboot. Wherever you are tonight my dear, I hope you’re doing well.

Love,
Beren

February 13, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Nights Like These | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Days to Come

Good morning, my dear.

It’s a new Lord’s Day and the skies are turning from black to grey. I think it’s to be a cloudy day, and chilly as anyone would expect in January. Expecting I would work last night, I slept rather late yesterday, only to decide not to work. (Other than the church of course.) So it was a late night. I came home and found Alegfast gone, so I made dinner, did some study and then watched half a movie in bed. (Not a terribly common occurrence, but it will be much more fun with you there in the days to come.)

I woke up quite early, two hours before daybreak, my body having had its quota of sleep already. Realizing I’d never get back to sleep, I watched the rest of the movie. It was achingly beautiful in places, sullied with a rating which I seldom entertain, but only slightly suggestive, and with profanity. It really made me contemplate the concept of living each day as if it were my last.

Rising, washing and dressing, I went to the nearby market for study cards and morning juice. An unsympathetic carnival of red and pink balloons, cards and candies danced above the aisles. Oh well. Someday, in the days to come.

I fry some fresh eggs (we’re looking after some chickens) and sit down to write you while I eat.

I rather wish more mornings were like this. I know I’ll feel the effects of less sleep later in the day, but for now it’s peaceful and unrushed. I can also relax and nap when I get back.

I think about the days, our Sundays yet to come. What sort of plans and hopes do you have for such weekends? Something entirely new and fun that I’ve never thought of? Or just those happy drives home, the kind of afternoons where everything is perfect and you wouldn’t change a thing if you tried.

I know we’re both ready for those days to begin. I’m sure there’s things about both our lives we’d like to change right now. I think we’re buying the moments we wouldn’t change for the world with all the moments we would.

I’ll come as soon as I can. I want you and need you, and every moment is only half without you in it. And maybe someday, somehow, when you’re with me and I’m with you, everything will be alright. Even when it isn’t.

But for now, there’s bills to pay and jobs to work, and books to study. It’s all just the slow passage of time, and us spending it as wisely as we can in preparation for the days to come.

Love,
Beren

January 19, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

A Belated Valentine

“And cannot pleasures, while they last,
Be actual unless, when past,
They leave us shuddering and aghast,
With anguish smarting?
And cannot friends be firm and fast,
And yet bear parting? 

And must I then, at Friendship’s call,
Calmly resign the little all
(Trifling, I grant, it is and small)
I have of gladness,
And lend my being to the thrall
Of gloom and sadness? 

And think you that I should be dumb,
And full DOLORUM OMNIUM,
Excepting when YOU choose to come
And share my dinner?
At other times be sour and glum
And daily thinner? 

Must he then only live to weep,
Who’d prove his friendship true and deep
By day a lonely shadow creep,
At night-time languish,
Oft raising in his broken sleep
The moan of anguish? 

The lover, if for certain days
His fair one be denied his gaze,
Sinks not in grief and wild amaze,
But, wiser wooer,
He spends the time in writing lays,
And posts them to her. 

And if the verse flow free and fast,
Till even the poet is aghast,
A touching Valentine at last
The post shall carry,
When thirteen days are gone and past
Of February. 

Farewell, dear friend, and when we meet,
In desert waste or crowded street,
Perhaps before this week shall fleet,
Perhaps to-morrow.
I trust to find YOUR heart the seat
Of wasting sorrow.”

-Lewis Carroll

February 16, 2013 Posted by | Holidays, Poems | , , | 1 Comment