The phone rang Sunday morning interrupting Tara’s routine. Wondering who could be calling, she picked up the receiver.
“Hello?” The question hung in her greeting.
“Hi Tara. It’s Jane. I’m calling to tell you I’m O.K.” Jane relayed her cryptic message with a tearful note in voice, forewarning Tara that something terrible had happened. “May and I were in an accident Friday morning.”
Tara knew little about May, other than like herself and Jane, May was married and had two school age children. Tara waited for Jane to continue.
“We’ve been going walking every morning. On our way home, Friday, we were hit by a car. The driver had hit a patch of black ice, lost control of the car and jumped the curb.” Jane took a deep shuddering breath as if remembering. “I flew up in the air and hit the ground a few yards away.” She paused again, and then added softly, “May ended up under the car.”
Tara could not control the loud gasp that escaped her lips and the sudden lurch of her stomach. “Is she . . . ? How . . . ? Tara struggled to find the right words to ask about May’s fate.
Jane rushed her words, as wishing the truth away. “May’s in hospital. She has two broken legs. One is crushed. The doctors don’t yet know if she’ll walk again.”
Tara’s hand clenched the receiver. Unconsciously she held her breath and then let it go in an explosion. “That’s terrible.” She exclaimed. She then asked how May’s family was coping and how Jane was doing. Jane responded that the family was coping well. She was home, but attended hospital for day treatment for her scalp wound and leg injury. As they were wrapping up the conversation and saying their goodbyes, Tara heard herself ask, “Which hospital was May taken too?”
Tara slowly hung up the phone, berating herself for asking where May was. It was as if she had been compelled to ask by a force beyond herself. She could not imagine herself, a virtual stranger, visiting May in her vulnerable position. Surely her family, friends and church community would be providing the support she needed. All day the tug of war went on. Logically it made no sense to visit. Yet the same compelling force that had prompted her to ask the question continued to nag at her until she could stand it no more.
The hospital corridor was quiet. The supper carts were gone. Tara could feel her heart hammering as she drew close to May’s room. “She probably has visitors,” Tara assured herself. “I’ll just peek into her room, and leave without her seeing me if others are there.”
She reached the doorway and stopped. The bed was empty. The room was silent. Puzzled, she took one step forward. In the same instant the sound of her name, an elated exclamation, resonated in her ear.
Tara turned toward the voice. May sat ensconced in a wheelchair beside her bed, arms outstretched in warm welcome. Her eyes were bright with undisguised pleasure and she was smiling broadly.
“Tara”, she said again. “I have wanted to get to know you better. Thank you for coming.”
Too surprised to move or speak, Tara silently absorbed the image of May’s open welcome, and her two injured legs. She was amazed by May’s exuberant greeting. Hesitantly she walked over to receive May’s hug.
“I didn’t expect you to be alone,” she blurted out.
“I’m glad we are,” May replied. “This was meant to be.”
Tentatively, Tara sat down on the edge of the bed. In response, she related how she had been compelled to come, against her better judgment. May didn’t seem at all surprised. Again, she affirmed Tara’s presence and eased the way into a companionable conversation.
As the visiting hour drew to an end, Tara asked if she could come again.
“I’d love for you to come and visit anytime.” May spoke without hesitation. “I expect to be here for at least a few weeks and your company would be most welcome.”
Over the course of a month, Tara visited frequently. Through surgeries, recastings and the interminable wait to have her home wheelchair adapted, May continued to welcome Tara warmly. With each visit the conversations flowed more freely, and by the time May was finally released from hospital Tara knew, undoubtedly, that she had a new friend.
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