Life is sweet. Every single bloody, heartbreaking, gooey, messy minute of it. Every moment we breathe, is a gift. Some of us are blessed with decades and decades of breathes and some of us much less.
I learned about mortality at a much younger age than I wish I had. I was just 4 years old when my first friend died. I was 4 years old and learned what a congestive heart condition was. Johnny was there one day, and the next he “went to be with Jesus”.
That same year, my best friend was hit by a truck right in front of me. She didn’t die, but she was brain damaged and wasn’t expected to mature intellectually beyond her 4 year old brain. Her family moved away not long after the accident. I suspect living there was too difficult. I was young, but I can still picture the impact of the truck hitting Cindy and throwing her up in the air. I can still see her mother look at me with that look of hate that she must have felt towards me, as if it should have been me instead. As an adult, and a parent, I certainly understand the inclination, but also the feeling of self-loathing that would come from feeling that way about an equally innocent child.
My favorite person in the world, my great grandmother died, when I was 10. She was old (94), but I adored her and sent little plastic flowers that I made back with my father. She was buried with them.
When I was 15, my mother was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. At that time is was essentially a long drawn-out death sentence. She survived 6 years, dying just a week after my 21st birthday.
I don’t believe I ever once in my life felt invincible. I never had those years of thinking I could defy death. I never feared death, knowing it was just part of life and that when my turn came, it was my turn. I do think that I had a healthy respect for it though.
There have been times in my life when I have been close to death, even once, I went into anaphylactic shock and nearly died. The hospital called my recovery a “miracle”. I actually thought the nurse on duty was joking when he said it. He clarified that not only should I have died, but the fact that I wasn’t severely brain damaged was amazing. I had been unconscious for an hour with very little oxygen in my bloodstream. I woke up with a medical team over me, about ready to intubate me. I just missed getting a scalpel to my throat. Thank God and all his mercy,
I woke up on the table and was surrounded by a bunch of good looking men in scrubs. My first thought was, “Either I’m alive and in the hospital, or this is a really bitchin’ heaven” Then I realized, I was naked. eek They had literally had to cut off my clothes off to administer care. I share the funny part because, even at a time of such fright, there is always something beautiful to remember, and something to remember fondly.
I’m not making light of death and loss. It’s devastating for those of us who have to pick up the pieces of the loss we feel when someone we love leaves us. If I had died that night. I would have left two young children without a mother. I would have left friends, who were with me that night, riddled with guilt for not responding quickly enough. It was a scary night, but waking up that night and again, the next morning, realizing that it wasn’t my time to die, left me with a new sense of joy in every breath.
Three years ago, I surpassed the age my mother was when she died. I never expected to live this long. I so identified with my mother that I expected to have the exact same life-span. When I reached that landmark in my life. I felt like I had a whole new life to live; a life I hadn’t even been able to visualize in any way.
It’s probably part of the reason that I am on this journey. I had no life planned after 53, so in many ways I am starting over. I am trying to figure out what my new dreams are. The dreams of my youth really aren’t valid for the me I’ve become, but I don’t want to give up the experience of living a life with purpose and a future where I bless every day that I can still draw breath.