I don’t expect to be lighting any candles. In fact, I’ll probably be thrown out of the hospital if I do.
But today I’ll be keeping a vigil at Miriam Hospital in Providence as my wife is undergoing total knee replacement. She’ll be in surgery for over an hour and then in the recovery room for several hours (she has sleep apnea, so she has to stay longer than usual) and then she’ll be back in her room to begin the process of recovery. They tell her that she’ll be up standing on her legs before she finally goes to bed for sleep tonight.
I’ll be waiting.
It’s not something I do well. But I intend to give it everything I have today. She did this for me a year ago when I had the same surgery, and she’s done it numerous times when I’ve been hospitalized. She’s better at it than I am. I can’t get into year-old magazines, and waiting room TV is usually of the Jerry Springer mentality. Sorry.
But I’m bringing a book. And I do know how to pray. And I suspect there will be several phone conversations with family and friends throughout the day to keep people informed of her progress.
The purpose of a vigil is to be there. There are no rules for vigils, except those that are created by people who are in charge of planning a vigil. In this case there are no such preparations. I may just bring my laptop and do some writing. But mostly, I’ll be there. Just be there.
Why? Because I care. That’s a not-very-vulnerable way of saying “I love her.” This patient who is undergoing the knife is my wife and has been for nearly 47 years. We’ve been through great moments and tough moments. But we’ve been through them together. This is not a time when I would want to be anywhere else.
The doctors and her physical therapist have speculated that she’ll do really well following this surgery. She’s really good at following instructions and being persistent with her exercises. Her therapist has said that she is the best patient he has had. He uses her for an example. (I suspect he’s had other really, really good patients, but it’s kind of nice to hear him say that she’s the best.)
The next few weeks will be hard, but I’m convinced that she will come through this surgery and implantation of an artificial knee with flying colors. But for now, it’s not all that much fun for her, and the first day of surgery and recovery are mystifying, confusing, and sometimes downright irritating.
That’s okay. I’ll be there. I’ll be her advocate. I’ll be sure she gets the medications she needs. I’ll make sure she is seen by nurses and other health care providers when it is appropriate. I’ll run little errands as she needs them, and do tasks she requires. Today is not a day for discussion of alternatives or listing of reasons why I shouldn’t be the one to do them. No, this is a vigil. I’ll be watching, and waiting, and listening, and praying, and maybe even snoozing every now and then. But I’ll be there. That’s what one does on a vigil.
Photo Credit: Troy Hall