In high school, a classmate was hit by a car, and ended up in a coma for two weeks. I didn’t get to know her until she returned to school a year later.
Young and stupid, I asked her if she remembered being in a coma. I wanted to know what her experience felt like, in case anyone I knew ended up in that situation. I wanted to know what – if anything – helped.
She said she came in and out of consciousness, but remembers hearing conversations between her doctor and her parents during which the doctor warned that she may never wake up. That her comatose state might be permanent. That they had no idea what she’d be like when she woke up – if she ever woke up, at all. They talked about her as if she wasn’t there.
She told me: never assume that a person in a coma cannot hear you.
Some people read books to her, or played music, or just sat there and told her about their lives, kept her up to date. She liked that.
The concept of comatose states scares the shit out of me, the way it probably scares the shit out of everyone else. I’ve been pretty vocal about the fact that I don’t want to sit on life support, unable to communicate, for years on end. Give me some time, but if things look grim, let me go.
I picture being comatose but being able to hear, to think normally, to understand what’s going on around me. I imagine hearing Jesse say goodbye, I love you, goodbye, I’m sorry, I’m sorry – crying – while I scream internally I love you, I’m here, I can hear you, I love you too, it’s okay. Let me go. And the worst part of it all being that he wouldn’t be able to hear me. He’d never know I was right there, reflecting love back at him. He’d spend the rest of his precious time on Earth wondering if I knew.
Imagine knowing it’s coming. Hearing it coming. Listening to the beeping of the monitors slow down. And not being able to say goodbye or share your love and thankfulness for life, for connection, for the opportunity to exist.
I don’t know that death is the worst part of this scenario. Right now, I don’t think it is. I think it’s worse to be trapped, unable to express love. To be at Death’s door without the privilege of goodbyes.
If you love someone, tell them now – before it’s too late.