The Light We Lost (Page 43)

“God has a plan,” she said. “And a child is always a blessing.”

I’m not sure if I believe her about either of those things. I don’t like the idea that God had this plan for you. And I can think of instances where having a child may not be a blessing. But her belief and her quiet strength, they helped. There is an element of peace in believing that we’re only players on a stage, acting out stories directed by someone else.

Is this God’s plan, Gabe? Is there even a God?


We landed in Tel Aviv just on time. I let Darren know I was safe and then took a taxi straight to the hospital. It felt strange not texting you to say I’d arrived. Or calling to ask what room you were in, how I’d find you. But there was no one to call. No one to talk to. It was just me—and the baby.

“I’m glad you’re with me,” I muttered to my stomach. It seemed less lonely, somehow, to know there was another living being there, experiencing this alongside me.

• • •

AT THE HOSPITAL there were two security guards checking everyone’s bags. “I need to find a patient’s room,” I told them frantically as I handed mine over, before I could even wonder if they spoke English.

“Information is over there. She can help you,” one of the guards said, after I went through the metal detector and got my bags back. He was pointing to a desk behind him.

I ran to the information desk as quickly as I could, rolling my suitcase behind me.

“Please,” I said when I got there. “I need to find a patient’s room. Gabriel Samson.” The woman behind the desk must’ve noticed how distraught I looked. The ten-and-a-half-hour flight and time change didn’t help. I’m sure my eyes were bloodshot and my hair and clothes rumpled. She found your name on a computer in no time.

“Floor eight,” she said. “Intensive care. Room 802.” Then she pointed me toward the elevator.

I hit 8 and tried to remember what floor your hotel room was on in the Warwick. Closing my eyes, I imagined your finger pressing the button. It was 6. Or was it 5? A tear rolled down my cheek. If you died, I realized just then, it would mean that I’d be the keeper of our memories. I’d be the only one on Earth who had experienced them. I have to do better. I can’t forget the details.

The elevator pinged and the doors opened. I went to the woman behind the desk and told her I was there to see you. She nodded and then said I could take a seat. That the doctors would be there shortly. Then she picked up the phone and started speaking quickly in Hebrew.

“Wait,” I said. “But I want to see Gabe. Can I see him now?”

She covered the mouthpiece of the phone with her hand. “Soon,” she told me. “But the doctors want to speak first.”

I had my suitcase and my oversized handbag from the plane. I carried them to a gray institutional-looking chair and sat. I closed my eyes and tried to remember the first time I saw you. Were you wearing a white T-shirt, or was it gray? Was there a pocket? An emblem on the left side? It had a slight V-neck, I remembered that part.

I opened my eyes when someone cleared his throat in front of me. “Mrs. Maxwell?” the man asked. He was wearing a lab coat. It reminded me of Jason’s.

I nodded and stood. “I’m Lucy Maxwell,” I said, holding out my hand.

The man shook it. “I’m Yoav Shamir,” he said. “Mr. Samson’s neurologist.” His English sounded nearly perfect, except for the way he swallowed the letter r.

“Thank you for caring for him,” I said.

Two women standing a bit behind Dr. Shamir stepped forward.

“I’m Dafna Mizrahi,” the taller one said, her accent more pronounced. “I’m the intensive-care doctor.”

I shook her hand too. “Nice to meet you,” I said inanely.

Then the third woman introduced herself. She wasn’t wearing a lab coat. Instead she had on a bright summer dress. There was a scarf draped across her shoulders. “I’m Shoshana. Shoshana Ben-Ami,” she said. “I’m a social worker here. I’ve reserved a room for the four of us—shall we head over?” She sounded British. I wondered if she’d been raised there and moved to Israel recently, or perhaps one of her parents had and she’d grown up speaking both languages.

“Okay,” I said, following all three of them. Between the flight and the time difference and the surreality of the situation, I felt like I was floating, like this whole thing was happening in a dream world, where sound was traveling through cotton wool to make its way to me.

“Do you know what happened?” Dr. Mizrahi asked me, as we all sat down in a small, quiet room. There was a table, a few chairs, a telephone.

“Some,” I answered, putting my handbag at my feet.

“Do you want to know more?” she asked. “I have the medic’s notes.”

Usually, I want to know everything. Usually the more information I have, the more I feel in control. But this time I said no. “I just want to see him,” I said.

She nodded. “You will, very soon, but we want to give you some information first.”

Dr. Shamir had sat down across from me. “As you know,” he said, “your friend had a very significant, traumatic injury to his brain. Would you like me to go through the test results?”

I took a deep breath. “Just tell me this,” I said, “what are the chances that he’ll recover? How long will it take?”

A look passed between the two doctors. “The lower portion of his brain was affected,” Dr. Shamir said. “That’s the part that performs essential life functions.”

“Swallowing, breathing,” Dr. Mizrahi clarified.

“But could he gain those back?” I asked. Hope, it had perched in my soul. It was singing a tune without words. Did you take that class at Columbia? The one on Dickinson? I can’t remember. I wish I could remember.

They looked at each other again. Dr. Mizrahi started this time. “Dr. Shamir and I both performed the test for brain death,” she said. “And your friend’s brain . . . it doesn’t function.”

“But will it again?” I asked. “Like a broken leg, or a sore throat. Can he get better?” As I rode in the cab from Tel Aviv, I’d imagined you hearing my voice and waking up. I’d imagined you whole and happy in my arms.

Dr. Shamir looked straight at me. His brown eyes were magnified through his glasses. “Mr. Samson is brain-dead,” he said. “That means he will never breathe again on his own, he’ll never swallow, he’ll never speak, he’ll never walk. I’m so sorry.”

Mr. Samson is brain-dead. A powerful wave of nausea swept through me. I looked frantically around the room for a garbage pail and lunged toward the one in the corner, just as I started to dry heave. Brain-dead. Brain is dead. Dead. You were gone. Forever. My body was rejecting that, rejecting everything.

My stomach muscles contracted in waves, trying to rid my body of anything it could.

Dr. Mizrahi came over and knelt beside me. “Take a deep breath,” she said. “Through your nose.”

I tried and stopped gagging.

“Now another.” She helped me off my knees and back into my chair. I wasn’t crying. I was numb. I felt like my consciousness had split in two. The part that felt things had detached itself from the rest of me. It was on the ceiling, watching the meeting.

Shoshana left the room and came back with a cup of water. “Do you need some time?” she asked.

I shook my head. I felt like a robot. Like my body and mouth were moving mechanically. “I’m sorry,” I said to all of them.

“No need to apologize,” Shoshana told me, patting my hand with hers.

“I’m pregnant,” I said, trying to explain. “I’ve been feeling sick anyway. I think—”

“How far along?” Dr. Mizrahi asked.

“Just over eight weeks,” I said.

She nodded and sat in the empty seat right next to me.

“You can keep him on life support,” Dr. Mizrahi told me. “We can talk about the length of time and what risks there are. But I always tell the families and friends to consider what their loved one would want. How would he want to live the rest of his life?” She reached across the table for a file, then shuffled through it for a piece of paper. “This is a copy of the DNR that the Associated Press sent to us.”

I took the paper and looked at your signature, so familiar—all angles where one expected curves. It was dated October 3rd, 2004. I began to read the form, but stopped. I knew what it meant. I still felt numb, robotic, like I wasn’t all there. I wasn’t sure what to say next. I wished I weren’t so alone. I wished you were there with me.

“When can I see him?” I asked.

“Dr. Mizrahi can take us now,” Shoshana said. “Or you and I can stay, and we can talk. About anything you’d like.” She handed me a plastic bag. “I have Mr. Samson’s camera for you—and his cell phone and wallet. His house keys as well. And a hotel key. That’s what he had on him.” I looked inside the bag. Your phone was shattered. Your camera looked surprisingly intact, but I could see splatters of mud—or was it blood—dried onto the lens.