“The coffin was handmade from the wood of a single Eucalyptus tree. There were no handles, it rested on the shoulders of six elegant tribesmen. These were Maasai from Kenya, the warrior tribe, known for their courage and endurance. The walkers followed at a respectful distance, the pace was grueling.”
They wheeled him into an elevator, the cardiac operating unit was three floors up. I sat outside, numb from the intensity of the last 24 hours. I’m not religious, but when the chaplain approached me, I broke down. It all started to register. My husband of thirty-three years was dying in a room just steps away, and this man would hold my hands and do what he could to comfort me. How absurd. I didn’t need a priest, I needed a miracle.
The surgeon pushed through the swinging doors, still wearing his cotton scrubs. They were printed in pink and blue flowers. How silly, I thought, what ever happened to pure white? He had magnifying glasses perched on his head over one of those funny caps. He wore glasses of his own. I guessed him to be about forty five. He looked like he hadn’t shaved in a few days. He walked up to me, pulling off his cap with one hand and holding the magnifying glasses in the other. He was perspiring. Simon had been in the operating room with him for over three hours and those lights are hot.
He stared at me. He was so young and sincere. “Are you Mrs. Kincaid?” he asked. He knew exactly who I was, but he still had to ask. I didn’t answer him, just nodded as the priest moved his chair closer. The flat screen TV was on. Some kid was watching cartoons with her mother. Why was a girl so young on the heart surgery floor? Must be her father, I decided.
Before he said a word, I knew what was coming. “We did all we could for your husband,” Mrs. Kincaid. “He had a massive myocardial infarction. The damage was extensive. We couldn’t save him. I’m sorry.”
Christ, why the fuck couldn’t he just say he was dead? Why did they have to use such professional sounding medical terms? I know you’re a doctor, you don’t need to impress me. A simple, “He had a heart attack. We lost him on the operating table. You have our deepest sympathy,” would have sufficed. I was feeling more angry than sad. I had lost my husband. In spite of his faults, and there were many, I loved him. I would miss him terribly. He was only 62; we still had so much to live for. I sucked in a deep breath, looked at this pathetic young doctor, and broke down uncontrollably.
“You’re too funny, Simon. This is not a business deal. This is the birth of your first child. You added value that night in Cleveland three weeks before our wedding. You do remember, don’t you?”
Simon grinned. He took my hands and assured me he’d be there. He was certain the doctor couldn’t do it without him.
Margaret Katherine Kincaid entered this world at 11:00 am Friday, January 15, 1978, at Lenox Hill Hospital on East 77th Street. From the moment she was born, Maggie would have the proper address.
The Cesarean was flawless, with Simon the perfect spectator. He kept his mouth shut for once, and stared in awed silence. He had wanted a boy, of course, but his disappointment was mitigated by the magic of the moment. He coughed nervously, rubbed his eyes, and smiled. “Congratulations, Max,” he whispered, “she’s beautiful, just like her Mother.”
Ten days later at 2:46 am, another child entered the world. She was born on a straw mat in a mud hut near the Ugandan/Sudanese border in East Africa. Her father, Erastus Kibugu, was also disappointed. He, too, wanted a boy. After seeing her in the midwife’s arms, he smiled and named her Nabulungi. It means ‘beautiful’ in Swahili.