I whisper “Sleep with the angels” to my children as I kiss them goodnight. A friend recently asked me about this. This is what I told her…
Remuda Ranch. Inpatient treatment for anorexia. Feeding tubes. They’re IN once they’re placed. In for a couple months usually. But we’re not being constantly fed. We get hooked up to this IV type machine that holds bags of what looks like Ensure, at bed time. I added that part because sometimes the plug on the tube pops open and you get an unexpected head bath with the stuff. It smells rancid and , naturally, it’s unsweetened so it’s also highly unpleasant when you accidentally get a mouthful. There’s a reason it’s made to go up your nose. Toward the end of my life as a “tuber” , my plug was popping open all the time. My roommate was helping me wash my hair in our tiny sink probably three times a night. The night nurses accused me of doing it on purpose. At first glance, this was understandable. Women manipulated their tubes all the time. Still. I was righteously irked. Like, if I was going to purge with my tube ,I’d choose to do it by dumping the crap all over my face several times before sunrise.
Anyway, we trudged to our rooms around 9pm and waited to be hooked up by whatever night nurse was working. The night nurses usually sucked. There’s just no delicate way to put that. And keep in mind that we had therapy and groups and emotional introspection starting at 7am. By 9pm? We were spent. There had been crying and arguing, shouting and breakthroughs. Treatment is a place of great pain. And then dealing with a harried night nurse on top of all that? It tended to make a tough end to an even tougher day.
But then..there was Lourdes. She was probably in her late 40’s but looked much younger. She had beautiful long, black, curly hair that always smelled sweet and she was just this side of plump so that when you collapsed in her arms, everything bad just disappeared. Every night when she came to hook up my roommate and I, she sat down on our beds, one at a time, took our cold, bony hands in hers, and simply talked to us. She had so much to do and so many women to tend to, but we were each important to her. She knew all of our stories. She cried with us. She prayed for us. She was the only one who could convince my roommate *S to accept her hook up and let her body get the nourishment it so desperately needed. After a hard day, just knowing that Lourdes would be there that night was the most soothing of balms. Knowing I could sink in to her sweet softness and she would hold me and tell me she loved me and I was special to God…. It was the way I imagined a mother should have been with me when I was little. I thought how incredibly lucky her daughters were. I wondered if they would ever really know.
Lourdes’ ‘good night’ was always a caress on the cheek, often wiping away exhausted tears I hadn’t known I’d shed, and a parting whisper of “Sleep with the angels”. She said she used to say that to her girls when they were young so they would always know that they were safe.Protected. Loved. Never alone. It was like an embrace as I drifted off to sleep.