My mother came
into the room, and she was a wreck, as usual. She was always nervous and
jittery when she was around me in the hospital, which was why I didn't like her
to be with me for too long. Now she was so nervous, so uptight, that no one in
the family could stand it. "Just looking at her makes me think I'm on my
way out," I thought. "She sure isn't very encouraging."
I didn't know it,
but there was no reason for anyone to be encouraging about my condition. One of
the doctors had called my family together in the chaplain's office and given
them the bad word. "I'm very sorry," he said, "but Darryl's
probably not going to make it through the night. He has pneumonia bad, and
because of his collapsed lung, breathing is a problem for him. Unfortunately,
there are no good signs present to make us think he'll pull through."
I was really
scared, more scared than I had ever been. I thought the worst had to be coming:
death. I wasn't afraid of dying; if it had to be, it had to be. But I still
wanted to live. I wanted to see my boys grow, to play catch with them again, to
kick a football around.
I closed my eyes
and began to entertain thoughts of death. My death. I dreamed I was in a
casket, and I saw people coming by the casket—and they were crying. I saw Tina.
I saw my mother and my father, together again, the way they were before their
divorce. I saw my boys; they were dressed in neat little suits. I saw some of
my old teammates—Russ Francis, Sam Cunningham and Leon Gray. Prentice McCray,
too. John and Virginia Madden were there, of course. Everyone.
In time, the
dream passed, and I felt all alone. I told my God, "If I am to die, then
your will is done. It is my wish at this time to live. Wherever I am when I
wake will be all right with me. Wherever I am, it will be your will. But I pray
that you spare me, for now."
Those were my
last words, my last thoughts, as I passed into sleep. I was in his hands.
The next thing I
knew, it was morning—and I was still breathing. Tina was alongside me, asleep.
Wayne was in a chair, dozing. One by one the doctors and nurses came into the
room to look at me, as they probably had done all night. I got the feeling from
their reactions that they expected me to be as cold as a cucumber. But there I
was in living and breathing color. Alive, not dead.
day—Saturday, Sept. 2, 1978—things began to improve. Each morning the
therapists would come in and work me hard; before then, they had given me the
once-over-lightly treatment, probably thinking that I wasn't going to make it
anyway, so why bother. They'd take my arms and legs and move them in different
directions, to try to get some movement and circulation going. It hurt, really
hurt at times, but the pain of the therapy didn't bother me.
pneumonia was under control and my lungs cleared, the doctors ordered the tubes
removed from my nose and mouth. The respirator was disconnected. This meant I
could eat real food. And no more intravenous yuk for meals. And no more
blinking signals. For the first time in weeks I could talk. "Wayne," I
said to my brother, "when you go to San Francisco tonight, I want you to
bring back the biggest takeout order of New England clam chowder you can find
so we can have ourselves a feast."