For a while now I’ve reflected on beginnings and endings, unaware of how much more personal endings would soon become. I’ve missed a week here, because I missed a week in my life – and almost the rest of it.
After a “simple” hand surgery Tuesday last, disoriented with too much pain medication in my system for my slow metabolism, terrible nausea woke me in the middle of the night. After staggering to the bathroom, I accidentally took too much of an anti-nausea medicine which is very sedating. In the morning, I only responded with groggy words and my husband was concerned, but knew a friend was coming by in an hour to pick me up for church, so he left my cell phone by my ear and went on to work, calling me regularly. After I hadn’t answered more than twenty calls, he left a full schedule of patients and rushed home. When it was clear that I was deteriorating, he called EMS, and followed the ambulance to the Emergency Room.
I awoke in the ER, thinking I’d just had the hand surgery, with no memories of the preceding 24 hours. I couldn’t get my words out to answer their questions and couldn’t move my hands to follow their instructions — the middle of a nightmare.
After an afternoon of CAT scans and other tests, copious amounts of IV fluids, a huge amount of confusion and a great deal of humiliation on my part, they ruled out a stroke. Towards evening, I was improving, so they released me to my husband’s care. We arrived home to find my precious youngest daughter with dinner ready, and my sweet, declining mother with her arms open wide.
It was days before I really understood what had happened, and even more days before I began to feel like myself, as I was weak, had little balance and huge amounts of brain fog. But even in the midst of the splitting headache and waves of nausea, I felt a deep sense of gratitude for the people in my life – my husband and his love and intuition, my family and their loving care, my dear friends from church who called and prayed – one who came and took over when my daughter had to return to her family the next day, and prepared food to last us several days.
As a child, I was always told to wait until I was older to do what I wanted and learned early on to postpone enjoyment. Life was scary and harsh, so I engaged reality as little as possible. That helped me to survive a rough childhood, but that is no way to live. How many of our early-acquired defense mechanisms now keep us imprisoned?
In the days that followed The Big Scare, the fog lifted, colors seemed brighter, everything around me more beautiful, and the people in my life even more important. I moved in a deep current of the joy of living and the desire to make every moment count.
And gratitude, in huge waves and gulps, filling me, washing me and releasing me.
As Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 9:7-10 in The Message
Seize life! Eat bread with gusto,
Drink wine with a robust heart.
Oh yes—God takes pleasure in your pleasure!
Dress festively every morning.
Don’t skimp on colors and scarves.
Relish life with the spouse you love
Each and every day of your precarious life.
Each day is God’s gift. It’s all you get in exchange
For the hard work of staying alive.
Make the most of each one!
Whatever turns up, grab it and do it. And heartily!
This is your last and only chance at it,
For there’s neither work to do nor thoughts to think
In the company of the dead, where you’re most certainly headed.
With a fresh sense of the value of each moment, for living now, valuing my priorities, I’m relishing each task, learning to make the most of all of my life, not waiting for high moments or perfect circumstances.
Letting my Lord’s love pierce me through and through, I am choosing to gift that freedom to everything I set my hand to do, whether loading the dishwasher, walking the dog, playing the guitar or singing in church, hugging a hurting friend, dancing with my youngest grandchild turning one, walking with my husband in the cool of the evening . . . the full range is exciting to embrace, and it’s all a wonder.