This evening marks the close of my final meaningful day here at Oita University Hospital. Tomorrow I will be released around 10 AM, with a new knee and all the promise of the coming year to go with it.
I’ve been here for five weeks, almost to the day, and the farewells began early. Masako-san, my infinitely compassionate and able nurse, stopped in just after breakfast. She had just finished the night shift and would be off tomorrow when I departed.
She brought me a small gift and a card, and I scrambled to present her with the one Ma Li had so carefully selected. I managed to remember about half of what I wanted to say to her in parting, stumbled over the rest, and then we stood there in an awkward silence for a long moment.
In America, I would have swept her up in a great bearhug in thanks for all the tenderness with which she had cared for me and the unusual bond that the nurse and the nursed always form. But this is Japan, and personal boundaries must be respected. As it happened she just sort of left, knowing that no more could really be said, and I sat back down on my bed suddenly struck numb by a sadness I was neither expecting nor prepared for.
Not two minutes later Matsuo-san swung around the corner. Not one of my main nurses, I’ve never seen fit to mention her in the journals. Even so, we had developed an easy friendship during my time in the ward that made the twenty or so years that separated us seem but a trifle. Another set of heartfelt goodbyes was exchanged, she too had just completed the night shift, and another person
who had been so near and dear to my heart nearly every day for five long weeks disappeared down the hall.
And that’s all it took.
My strength left me and I collapsed back upon the bed, my surroundings soon fading away behind a shimmering wall of tears. The days leading up to this moment had been marked with quiet excitement and expectation of freedom, and yet now all I found inside me was profound sadness over the people I must part with.
It was a terribly long morning.
And now here I lay, somewhat melancholy and emotionally spent from a day of farewells, quite unalike the joyous, smiling finish I had imagined for myself only days earlier.
Perhaps tomorrow will find me rising with spirits renewed?
At any rate, I am finally headed home…