I have never experienced a parking garage the way I experienced the parking garage at Barnes-Jewish hospital in St Louis, Missouri. Imagine myself manic, having slept only a few hours the night before, hopped up on an "all natural" energy drink, frantically pulling into the most poorly designed parking garage in the world.The day before I had received the phone call I had been expecting, or at least anticipating, for a couple week. My cousin was being discharged from the hospital into hospice care; and although the details were being worked out as I drove from Chicago to St Louis, we knew the end was nigh. My cousin's doctor had told her parents to call family and friends, anyone who might want to say a final goodbye. Jennifer was having good days and bad days, and we were not sure how long she would remain both lucid and alive.
The night before had been a flourish of preparations. After work I went to the store to buy several kinds of drinks, hoping that even though Jennifer could no longer eat solid foods, that she could still enjoy a cold rhubarb lemonade, or a Grumpy Cat Cappuccino. I packed, shampoo, books, a light sweater for the hospital, short for the humid Missouri summers. On top of this pile of travel sized cosmetics and spare clothes in case of an accident, I packed the beautiful vintage black cocktail dress I was saving for her funeral.
As I pulled into this garage, that I am convinced was designed by MC Escher, full of dim lighting and poorly marked parking spots, the lucid and practical person of the night before began to disappear. I began to circle the Kafkaesque garage, trying to avoid pulling in the wrong way down a one way lane, watching as parking spots turned into no parking zones like a mirage disappearing in the desert. As time started to go by as I circled the garage I began to feel helpless. I thought back to my grandmother who died as my family drove from the airport to the hospital she was staying at, missing her death by approximately fifteen minutes. It was in the cocoon of my rental car that I began to confront the deep grief inside myself as tears of self pity, tears of anger, sadness, and frustration began to pour out.
I pride myself on being a practical person. When Jennifer was diagnosed I looked at ovarian cancer survival rate (dismal) and discussed her diagnoses (not good) with my mother, a former gynoncology nurse. I researched medical terms trying to piece together a picture of the situation, and I knew that the odds were not in Jennifer's favor. I knew that the cancer was eating at her body, and I knew the end result would be her death. Maybe in a year, maybe five years, maybe ten, but the end result would always be death. I made my peace with that, I thought I was prepared for the sadness and the absence, but here I was in this dark, dank, poorly designed garage, crying because I could not find a parking spot. I knew that I was not ready. That I would never be ready.
If you're still with me, you'll be happy to know that I did eventually find a parking spot. And there was an excellent pedestrian path leading to the hospital lobby which I ran across while pulling up the information about Jennifer's room number. And when I got to Jennifer's room she was both awake and lucid. I spent that weekend and the following weekend with her. A few weeks later she would died at home, according to her sister with a smile on her face.
For more information on Beka Bach, visit her here