The Lapse podcast is one of my go to listens in the morning. It occurs to me that this is a weird use of the word listen. It takes me to the frequently used expression by news casters: take a listen. Anyhow, for some reason the use of that expression by media has me now morphing the word into a different use of the word listen. So, the podcast is one of my frequent listens in the morning; that is, something to which I turn in order to pass the time as I drive to work… and I listen. There is a wide range of podcasts from which to choose. The range of topics swings from true crime to inward reflections and self help to hobbies. The Lapse bills itself as stories gussied up. There are sound effects involved which seek to heighten the listeners awareness of what the story line is all about. At times, there are other voices and music.
This morning, the episode I am tuned into is a "best of" the past year of stories. Short stories. The episode truncated four episodes that ended up being personal favorites for the host: Kyle Gest. This is Kyle's second year as a solo podcaster; his stories are for the most part amazing. I find myself often wondering how he came across the people he features on the show. In many cases there is such an resonance with circumstances and events that, while they may seem unusual, it feels to me as if the story deeply mirrors the human experience. It's the depth he reaches in such a short time.
In this particular episode of "bests" he opens with the notion that he hates "best of anything", because he doesn't want to pick one, or two, or three best. It short changes the possibility that another might be 'the best'. My words not his, but in a nutshell- his feelings on the subject. He launches into his best of with four episodes anyway, and indeed – for the first two, he has picked really good ones. I remember listening to those two in their full version, months ago.
The first one is about a man who had a terrible cramp that got worse and worse. To the point where he ended up in the hospital. The next thing he knows, his limbs- all four, are amputated. My synopsis here does not do the episode justice, you must listen to it. Kyle's episodes are told by the persons involved in the stories. And Kyle filters in appropriate and non disruptive sound effects so that the story comes to life just a bit more.
The voice of the person experiencing this medical emergency that catapulted him into a completely different life, is soothing, reassuring and so gentle as he explains his journey. And his perspective of what happened and why it happened is incredibly touching. He does not seem to have any anger. His goal in the hospital, as all this was happening, was to be kind to the staff, to get to know them personally: to be a really good patient. All the while, this overwhelming scenario is playing out for him with necrosis through bacteria spreading to all four limbs.
I admit that when the episode was repeating itself in this "best of" version this morning, I was momentarily tempted to switch to something else. The pain of hearing this kind soul's horrific journey caught in my chest. I stuck with it because it was the reminder of his way of getting through it, of pressing on and of finding hope in certain moments during the ordeal, that kept me riveted. This time around, Kyle didn't include the part about this soul's urgent need to listen to a specific classical piece of music which he had trouble communicating to the nurses. Instead of a soft and gentle piece, they misunderstood his request and placed earbuds in his ears with a piece streaming into his head that sounded more like a full brass band. Something like that.
The original podcast had specifics about this music and I can't recall it completely but remember searching for the music he had intended on my Spotify app and then being so sad for Will Lautzenheiser (the gentle soul losing his limbs) because instead he was listening to something completely different, for hours. I recall on that initial listen feeling such horror for Will because he had been forced to listen to this clanging and banging fanfare orchestra, rather than an elegant lilt and shimmer of a nocturne that might help put one to sleep. It might be like asking for a lullaby only to be presented with a heavy metal jam session. Without arms and for the moment no voice because of the tubes inserted everywhere, he was not able to communicate his need for them to correct their mistake. So, he endured. As I write this, I realize that I must go back and listen to the full episode again (not just the condensed version), for I must know the music he craved to hear.
In the car this morning, the episode also reminded me of the beauty of sensations we have which we take for granted. Touch. Fingers and hands touching something, and feeling the different textures. Will has the opportunity down the line to receive arm transplants for both arms. Real arms. Initially, the arms when surgically added to his body- are not completely connected to his own nerve centers. But as time passes, he begins to feel things. He turns on the shower (not with his hands yet) and places an arm under the water stream. He then turns off the water and brings his arm out of the shower; was that cold he just felt? He talks about other amputee patients with transplanted arms which he had read about – who after a time could feel the difference between a hard backed book and the paper sensation between the covers. How most people don't think about the intricacies of sensation and nerves – those very delicate nerves we have in our fingers that can experience such different sensations.
As I drive, my mind moves to my own hands resting on the hard plastic (pleathered) wheel. It's a little bumpy. I move my right hand to the passenger seat which has a lambs wool cover. I feel the texture beneath my fingers. I caress the lambs wool and feel it's scratchy and bumpy nuances. I begin to think about my morning with Sofie, as I get ready for work. She sits on my bed and each time I pass her I talk to her: "hey sweet girl" and occasionally I stop and bring my arms around her neck and back and caress her silky fur and then I bring my face down to her forehead and kiss her eyebrows. She lets me, her body goes limp under my arms and hands and she rolls to show me her belly. "Pet me, please" she seems to say through her eyes. I pet her soft belly. The sensation of her silky fur is so lovely and her trust growing more and more is so beautiful. Sensations. Fur. Leather. Plastic. Books. Taken for granted. We don't know what we have really, until we don't have it anymore. I supposed we can't go around on constant high alert of what we have all the time. But this gal appreciates the reminder of what I have, the gifts I have in this life because of how I am made.