Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Red Mittens

I've lost my favourite mittens.

Hubster bought these for me at the Christmas Market a few years ago and I just love them. They are made of bright red yarn with various colours tucked in here and there. When I put them on, I feel like I've got a secret weapon to keep the winter blues away. They fit like half gloves, but have a little hood that covers my fingers and makes them mittens all the same. I'm missing them and I wish I knew where they've gone.

The last time I saw them was back in February, the day I went to visit my friend, Isabelle, in the hospital for the last time. She had been suffering from a second round of cancer and had been hospitalized just after Christmas. I call her my friend, but the truth is, I hardly knew her. Her kids are in the same classes as mine and we crossed paths often at birthday parties, out walking, or just around the village, but our friendship didn't get much deeper than that. Regardless, Isabelle was always incrededibly kind to me so when I heard she was at the hospital, without hesitation, I wanted to go see her. I felt that, if I were in her shoes, I'd want all the visitors I could get.

The first time I saw her, she looked tired and since she was sharing a room, it was hard to really chat with her about things. Plus, I know that dealing with my horrible French can be exhausting for someone who is not sick, so I'm sure she had an even harder time trying to follow my muddled words while under the effects of morphine.

I only stayed about 10 minutes or so that first visit, but I was glad that we at least had laughed a little and I got to see her smile when I gave her some pictures of her kids that Hippy Love Francaise had taken at school.

The second time I visited her, she had been moved to a new room and, even though she again seemed tired, we were able to laugh about Whoopsie and the name search, talk about school issues, and other mundane subjects. I just hoped that my coming would give her a distraction, help her get out of that hospital mentally, if that was at all possible.

I found out a couple of days later that even though I had been with her for 20 minutes on that last visit, Isabelle didn't remember my being there.

A week passed by and I hemmed and hawed about going back to see her. Finally, on a Tuesday when Bubba-Love was at the creche and the other two were at school, I hitched a ride with another friend into town. The entire 45 minute trip I see-sawed back and forth about going to visit. As we approached the hospital, I stopped waffling and agreed to meet my friend at her appointment after I had seen Isabelle.

Her room was dark, even with the window shades open, and she was laying akwardly in the bed. Her eyes were closed and her breathing was forced and arrhythmic. I have no idea if she even knew I was there, but I sat next to her and told her how much I liked her kids. I told her how I hoped she wasn't suffering too much and told her not to worry. Her parents were looking after her kids and they were doing a heck of a job. I told her how beautiful our village looked that morning, covered in a dusting of snow. I touched her cold hands. I stared at her face. I sat with her for another minute or two, then kissed her on the head and left.

Truth be told, I basically ran from the hospital. I rejoiced to be walking in the snow flurries that were stinging my face and hands, glad it was me who was outside. I pulled my red mittens on my hands and briskly walked to meet my other friend, the whole time trying to understand why someone in her mid-30s, with two children who needed her, was there, dying in that hospital.

Isabelle passed away on the Friday of that week, leaving a community quite shocked and wounded. I see her children everyday at school, the two of them laughing and playing with their friends, as they should be. But my heart is breaking for them. Unlike me, who can buy new mittens, their loss is irreplaceable. No amount of vibrant red yarn will bring their Isabelle back.

I miss my mittens and I miss Isabelle. I'm secretly hoping they've found a way to go to her, keeping her hands warm and ready to grab and hug her children many, many years from now.


kissmekaty said...

Nothing like a good cry first thing in the morning. Your tributes are always so beautiful. xoxoxo

magali said...

I have a scarf like that, it was the one I was wearing when I visited my grandpa in the hospital. His hands were so cold I gave him my warm and colorful scarf to warm them up.
I still miss him and every time I wear this scarf I think about him.

I hope you find your red mittens soon.

Kelly said...

Oh honey. Good thoughts to you and your friend's family. Have you ever read the Mitten Mystery by Steven Kellogg? It's a great picture book with a great ending.


Sue said...

Wow! You have a gift...I am speachless.

Diane said...

No finer tribute to Isabelle could ever be... what a good friend to her you were.

ckweirath said...

I got chills, Karen. Very sweet.

ellenstew said...

Oh Karen, that was so beautiful, I am transported back to when my mother-in-law died right after Ana was born. What a good friend you are. Maybe Woopsie is Isabelle's little angel - the circle of life is so strong.