During the long weeks that Caden Beggan was in hospital, I spent many days there too.
That first visit was tough, but less awkward than I’d feared. Conversation flowed as we discussed the doctors’ plans, Caden’s progress, the family’s resilience or otherwise.
As I left I hugged people and told them that, if they didn’t mind, I’d like to come back next week?
“Please do…” they replied and I smiled back at them, grateful for the welcoming invite.
As the weeks went on, I visited more frequently; every couple of days towards the end.
There were hours when we all sat together, when some of us broke away, or chased each other out of the door – “Go take a shower, we’ll call you if anything changes, we promise.”
There were times when Caden’s immediate family were gone, deep in discussion with surgeons, horse trading and negotiating over inches of lost and gained tissue, debating whether to cut or to wait.
During those times we sat in the waiting room, or the cafe, drinking crap coffee and too many cakes.
And we chatted. About anything. Our jobs, our families, our day yesterday and plans for the next week. We got to know each other, be we friends, colleagues, siblings from over seas or parents. We fused together into a tight little gang, “the hospital crowd”, as we came to be known.
There were days where there was stuff to be done. Lifts to be given, food to be prepared, children to be ferried from one house to another. We’d squabble over who would complete each task, sometimes because the drive to complete a tangible task was so attractive, sometimes because you could see that the person offering to go home and do laundry was so emotionally knackered they could probably go an extra few hours of sleep instead.
Each time we’d leave we’d let one another know when we hoped to return.
“Please do…” they’d say, though differently now.
Because as time went on that phrase became more of a request than an invite.
I was baffled, as I was doing nothing while I was there.
Many days were spent just taking up a chair in the hospital dining room.
As a male emergency worker, my entire life is focussed on “making it better” and finding solutions for people. The concept of turning up to a crisis just to be there is not one that sits comfortably with me.
Regardless, I was able to see, if not comprehend, the strength that our attendance gave Caden’s parents. I don’t know why it helped, but having a crowd around held them up and push them forward.
In the days after his death and funeral, I’d stop by the house.
Often just to walk in, drink coffee, hug people and leave.
Doing nothing, but somehow helping.
Caden Beggan taught me the power of Turning Up And Being There.
I pray I remember it always, though I doubt I’ll ever understand it.