Eddie came next.
She leaned in until our faces were almost touching. She stared at me silently for a while, and then lightly grazed her nose across my forehead, as soft as butterfly’s wings.
We had been dating for just a couple of years.
“Are you still gonna be able to kiss me?” she teased gently.
Many, many more years would pass before she told me about how close she came to breaking up with me. About how most of her friends were scared for her, and wanted this crazy person out of her life. About how she even asked a nurse at one point if couples make it through this sort of thing.
Despite all of that, we would be together for another 9 years. And although we ultimately didn’t stay together, to this day she is my closest friend, and one of the greatest delights of my life.
But in that moment, and for many moments after that, she kept her fears and doubts close to her chest. My crushing shame and self-hate rendered me incapable of acknowledging what the last six months – let alone this climactic event – were truly like for her.
Instead, she pulled a homeopathic remedy out of her bag and dropped it into her water bottle. I watched her dip her finger in the solution and then draw it carefully across my lips, under my chin, around my sutures, again and again.
I was still too nervous to move or talk, so I nodded as faintly as I could each time she dabbed at me, hoping this tiny gesture would convey how grateful I was for her presence, her care.
For the love that I didn’t feel like I deserved.
The lessons I have learned during this healing journey of almost 20 years have been difficult, obviously. But the hardest by far (and, in fact, the one that took the longest to learn) was the ability to soften my self-loathing part to the point that I could invite my loved ones to tell me about their own experience of my illness, without them having to edit out their suffering to soothe my inner critic.
This capacity to make amends would prove to be one of the most transformative aspects of my life, and I’m grateful every day.
I know that eventually I need to explain my own particular meaning of the term “amends”.
But for now, that will have to suffice. That’s years in the future. And we are just at the beginning.