By Rami Efal
“Oy vey” Bernie muttered over the mushroom soup at lunch. His speech is clearer when his energy is up, and along with talking about the state of work he is very concerned about the recent cigar order that’s been sitting in the post office. To stay fresh they need to go into a humidifier — STAT, which, our dedicated nurse explained, is faster than ASAP.
Saturday, Bernie spoke with Marc his son on the phone, and Alisa, Eve and myself were all struck by the candidness and vulnerability in his voice. Later that evening Alisa left back to DC and will return to his side soon.
This morning Sunday, He read Eve’s written updates and chuckled. We acknowledge this simple act being an unimaginable progress over the first few days after the stroke. He read some of the comments and emails he received and leaned back, seemed tired, and, we suspected, moved.
The doctor prescribed him to exercise his right arm. Many of us have heard Bernie teach using his body — how Mary and Joe, his two arms, are part of Bernie, the whole – so they care for one another. Today he turned to Joe, warm but limp on his right, and called out ‘Hey! Tip’sha (Hebrew for silly)! Move!’ Eve and Bernie laughed. He dons Boobysttava’s clown voice and goes into a fascinating, and hilarious, dharma spiel. Eve, assuming a challenging tone and pointing at his arm, asked: ‘If you can’t feel it, is it still part of you?’ They exchanged a glance. Then Bernie raised his working left arm, reached over and lifted the other – pushing and pulling – doctor’s orders.
We were getting ready to leave. A young RN pops into the room and gasshos to Bernie – “You did it to me yesterday coming out of the MRI, so I wanted to return the favor.”
The old Cambodian man in the bed next to Bernie, we learned, was a Buddhist monk who had been living for years at the Peace Pagoda in Leveret MA. Each day, his grandson hitchhikes three hours back and forth to see him. We saw no other visitors. Several flower vases arrived for Bernie. They really lit the room up. One was sent by Claude Anshin Thomas, a Zen Priest and a Vietnam vet, who began his work with Bernie on a pilgrimage organized by the Peace Pagoda in ‘96. We nodded acknowledging the coincidence and placed Anshin’s vase by the monk’s bed. Bernie was waiting out on a stretcher. Leaving the room, Eve turned to the sleeping man, gently touched his left shoulder, and bowed.
Bernie said goodbye to the terrific doctors, nurses and technicians at Baystate Health Neuroscience care unit and on Sunday afternoon he was transferred to Weldon Rehabilitation Center in Springfield MA. He will stay here for at least a few weeks. Tomorrow Monday morning, his 77th Birthday, Bernie will start acute rehab (Bernie:“oh boy” – rolling eyes,) with occupational, speech and physical therapy.
While not seeing visitors Bernie could use all the encouragement we can muster as he enters rehab. So please, send him a happy birthday card or photo to [email protected], post it on his Facebook page, or send it to POBOX 294 Montague MA 01351. Flowers or pureed meatball grinders can be sent to Weldon Rehabilitation Hospital 233 Carew St, Springfield, MA 01104, Room 405.If you wish to send an encouragement to his Cambodian neighbor at Baystate Hospital Neuroscience Care, the room is 5152A. Click here to Bernie’s CaringBridge website.
We are grateful for the support and many prayers for Bernie’s quick recovery. Thank you.