“Please drain tub.” That’s what a tasteful little sign above the jacuzzi requested as I steeped in appreciation of a gift certificate recently given to me. The words brought memories into mind —
First, I recalled 17 years ago when, at day’s end of a very intense personal growth workshop, the facilitator said to the group, “Take a long bath tonight but be sure to shower for a moment afterward. You don’t want to stew in the juices you’ve been releasing; be sure to rinse it all away.”
And next, I remembered our fourth day of cancer. I was on the phone with a friend. The stormy debris of the first shock-wave was surfacing: intense fear, the gravity of Reid’s illness, a leukemia diagnosis, being alone, being homesick for my daughters. Searching to offer me some sort of comfort, she said, “See if you can find a bathtub, Martha. You need to be held. Find a bath and let the water hold you for a little while.”
We’d been there for three days, and I wandered from Reid’s room only far enough to get a cell phone signal or use the bathroom. It was hard to conceive of leaving long enough for a quick meal, let alone an entire bath, but I went searching.
I discovered the “family facilities” in the Knight Oncology Treatment Unit: a laundry and sleeping room on the 13th floor; another sleeping room and a shower on the 14th floor. A shower. For family. Hot water – and a moment in time.
I’ll never forget that first shower. It was neither an embrace nor a receptacle for the grief that washed from me. I closed my eyes and let the water take control. It was elemental, and with deep shuddering breaths of solitude and vulnerability, I stood naked – in all ways – and cried.
Maybe it’s a good thing there is no tub in the oncology unit. Maybe someone very wise said, “Let’s not put bathtubs in the family facilities. There’s already so much sadness here, we’d best not have folks soaking in it also. Showers only here, so we can send grief down the drain.”
Let it go; let it go. Let it all go down the drain.