Monday, December 5, 2011

Anchors to This Mortal Coil

What I keep going over, in my mind, is that if I had collapsed anywhere but in the doctor's office on September 2nd, I would very likely be dead. If my doctor had sent me home, agreeing that I had a "muscle pull" instead of an infection, it would have been the same result. Hours later, on the emergency flight from Bozeman to Billings, as all my organs failed, so did my heart. But when the doctors tried to revive me, my body chose to live.

I don't think I have any memories of Billings; but once transferred to Salt Lake City, I remember a moment when I, barely coherent, muttered over and over to my vigilant identical-twin brother Tom, "I want to live, I want to live, I want to live..."

Tom's presence during the early days is hazy but vital for me -- vital in the sense that life felt like the only possibility when he was there, the alternative being too awful: a breaking of symmetry. My irrational thought ran, "I can't die, because he would be so alone." (This is not the place to go into the metaphysics of twinship, but it is true that tighter bonds are rare.)

Of course outsiders have their own take on events: one of my nurses, Martina, later said "I never expected to walk in the room and see someone who looked just like the patient standing next to the bed. It startled me! You almost think, 'God, is that a ghost?'" Perhaps more like that I was Tom's ghost, moving in and out of reality, or planes of existence.

My sister Mary was likewise present during some of the early days, and I only have a hazy vision of her departure, and her voice in my ear. My feeling of her presence and then absence became oddly, hallucinatorily, bound up with a dry erase board on my wall, which I interpreted as a large calendar that my sister left me as a gift. The calendar had on it shifting letters that variously indicated that it had something to do with Allison Kraus and "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee." This strikes me as an amazing premonition, given the trouble that my knees have subsequently been causing me. (My right knee and leg will be much closer to healing after an operation this Wednesday, December 7th, to graft skin and close up various open areas, including my wide-open knee. My left knee will undergo a patellectomy during the same surgery.)

The other constant and crucial presence for me in the early days of my illness (and, as it would happen, rather far into my recovery) was Angel. Angel, from Providence. My dearest Angel. His keeping vigil, like my brother's, filled my heart and kept away some of the worst darkness during long and unsure nights.


  1. It was the night of the day when I first learned how ill you were. A Saturday. Michael and I (Michael is my fiancé)were watching PBS because I don't have cable, and it was likely after midnight. I don't know if you'll find it strange that I cried upon seeing that "Thelma and Louise" was the film of the night. I always connect you with that movie. I am pretty sure we saw it together in the theater, and if we didn't, we watched it on video later. I don't know why I'm remembering this now. It seems germane. I've been known to be wrong, though.


  2. Gilana, I think we did see Thelma and Louise together. You might like to know that sometimes I teach it in my screenwriting class.

  3. Hey Will,

    It's been a while since I last sent my best wishes. I hope your knees are doing better - I'll be praying for them. Keep that great attitude. :)

    Rachel Lulich

  4. Hi Will...I am following your progress and thoughts via your blog and updates from Tom. Your spirit and emotional stamina are awe-inspiring. Someone once told me that the Universe, God, whatever, etc gives you nothing you cannot handle. I remember debating this notion internally, but decided I liked the mindset behind it. Keep it up, are my hero.

  5. I just read this post now, two weeks later. So good to hear you speaking to everyone this way. So good to see your face in the latest pictures. We miss you.