The Sixth game of the 2010 National League Series was a disappointment for Phillies fans as we saw our World Series hopes be handed to the feisty San Francisco Giants. Certainly there is an endless variety of ways to say Why couldn’t the Phillies connect to the ball? Why did Ryan Howard stop being the powerhouse that all expected him to be? What happened to the fightin’ Phils energy? These are the questions I will leave to the sports experts and commentators who get paid to make up answers. For me, the question is, what about being in a ballpark with 46,000 people became an essential piece of healing from a traumatic injury that had kept me out of work for 6 weeks, and in pain for much longer than that?
On March 21 that year, an accident at home sent me to the trauma unit at Einstein hospital. Although I didn’t know it at the time, the top joint of my finger had been crushed and the nerves severed so badly that the damage was irreparable. As you read this, you may shutter thinking about the pain. Multiply that for how painful it was in reality. My world became bandages and medications, managing time away from work, neighbors and friends helping me clean and cook, family staying with me, and much much love. I created visualizations of light and warmth and gratitude and recorded them as lullabies. Listening to my soft voice whispering these meditations was the only way that I could sleep. Bathed in this light I went into surgery on March 31. At every turn in the waiting room from the prep room to the surgery room, there were many opportunities to thank those who were doing what they loved and doing it well.
I had yet to see the extent of the damage, still did not know that my hand had changed permanently.
I only knew at that on April 14, I WOULD go see the Opening Day Phillies game with friends. I only knew that. There was no question, that whatever the pain , no matter what else fell away from my life, going to that game would stay on my schedule.
Hand bandaged, my bag packed with Vicodin and Acitaminophan, I took my seat in the 11th row on the third base line cradled between two of my favorite Phillies phans for my first ever Phillies game. I couldn’t clap because the impact on my hand was like an electric shock. But I could stand up and wave, shout and scream.
Oh, how I needed to scream. For 8 regular games, and 2 post season games, I needed to scream.
Not for myself. For a team, the city and for the spring and summer; for hope and for excitement; for the open air and balls sailing high into the sky; for running and stealing bases, sliding into home; for grace and green, the sun setting over the Philadelphia skyline; for silly antics on the field, the ceremonial first pitch and the actual first pitch.
For all that and more, I needed to scream.
How I needed to feel alive.
The other 95% of my body that wasn’t hurt, the places in me that had become small in body and spirit needed to explode with as many feelings as I could find. The vast ballpark was a space to slow down to the pace of one pitch. The ballpark was my stage to express the intense joys of winning, the excruciating pain of losing, the excitement at seeing a no hitter, the awe at witnessing the ballet of an elegant catch in right field, the naughty delight of cheering of sneaking in a stolen base, the tickle at being part of a ‘wave’ that spread throughout the stands, the silliness of singing and swaying during the 7th inning stretch. The joys of singing ‘He’s got high hopes, high apple pie in the sky hopes…’
And none of the other 40,000 people knew that 5 % of me was damaged. They didn’t care if I screamed and yelled. That realization- that I could be big, loud, rowdy, and totally alive- is what saved my life.