I don’t remember if I heard his voice in the hallway, or if I saw him walk into my hospital room first. Regardless, if I had been hooked up to a heart monitor, everyone would have known that upon his entrance into the room, my heart started thumping a little faster than it should have been.
He was still dressed in his Sunday clothes. He had on a white, button-up dress shirt, black slacks, and an aquamarine tie that didn’t match his eyes. Ebenezer had dark brown eyes. Behind him was a motley grouping of my friends that he had carpooled up to the hospital: Nicole, Jonathan, Nephi, and Celia. I only saw Ebenezer.
My friends arranged themselves in an arc around my hospital bed. Celia sat in the chair to my left, Nicole knelt at the foot of my bed, and the three boys stood in a row between them. Feeling self-conscious about my unwashed head I said something to the effect of, “Sorry about my hair guys. I know it’s kind of gross.” My bangs had collected into a strange mass at the top of my forehead so I said, gesturing towards it, “Look at this thing, it’s like the most horrific Utah Bump I’ve ever seen.” Everyone laughed at my joke, except Ebenezer. His expression strained and he said, “Amber, you look very pretty.”
I thought I looked more like the Grim Reaper. Unsure how to respond, I brushed his comment aside. The conversation continued, much the way it would have if we had been back in my living room in Provo. At one point, Celia engaged me in a one-to-one chat, which required me to roll over and face her. Typically, turning required two nurses. They would lift me in my bed sheet, and from there, one of them would gently push my body over.
This was the first time I had attempted it without aid. I tried not to draw attention to myself as I grabbed the handrails to my left, and exerting all the force I could muster, rotated from my back to my side. I glanced across the room to see if anyone had noticed. Ebenezer had. An expression of deep concern and pain crossed his face. He looked like he might step forward and help me. But then, I had made it to my side, and he quickly cleared his face of any indication of how much he cared.
Because there was no conceivable way I could give them real hugs before they left, I told everyone that I needed hand-hugs. A hand-hug is an extended hand shake, without the bobbing of the conjoined hands. Ebenezer and I hand-hugged near the top of the exiting procession. He lingered near my bed until everyone else had said their goodbyes and moved towards the door. Then he reached down and grabbed my hand again. His fingers were warm and soft against my emaciated cold ones. He very gently squeezed my hand. Then he stood up and joined the group at the door. They all waved and noisily made their way out of my hospital wing.
I had wanted to say it then, but the moment that hadn’t really existed in the first place, had passed. As he walked down the hall, I said it inside my mind: I love you, Ebenezer.
~ Amber Richardson, Nampa, Idaho