It is January; the holidays are over, the bills are starting to arrive for most, and the thermometer has become our enemy, it seems. And, as always happens in January, I face yet another birthday.
I have to say, though, that this year may be a little different, as I’ve recently survived a few very near-death experiences. There are, I’ve learned, things much worse than aging, or even dying. The 21 days I spent on the Rehab Floor at the University of Utah Medical Center opened my eyes to many things: my roommate was a man, not much older than me, who can’t walk, talk, feed himself, or use the bathroom because of a stroke. SO MANY stroke victims…some younger than me! It made me cry to see people that were working SO HARD just to be able to take one more step than the day before, or to stand, or to be able to extend their arms and hug their loved ones. It makes me cry, thinking about them, as I sit here and write this.
I was SO lucky…I’ve asked myself, and God, several times since…”WHY ME???”. Not, “why me” as in “why did I have to go through this?”, but “WHY ME??”, as in “why was I lucky enough to survive, or be rehabilitated, when so many are not?”. Every day, while reading the newspaper, I look at the Obituaries…as Mark Twain said, “To make sure I’m not in there…”. Every day, I see listings of men and women that are my age or younger, who weren’t so lucky, and my mind flashes those two words on my inner marquee… “WHY ME”?
My wife, who is much more “left-brained” than I, simply says, “Because you were in the right place, at the right time, with the right professional help”. I wish I could be satisfied with that answer, but part of me is not.
I’m deciding, though, that I can’t get muddled down in self-reflection. While it IS a great place to visit on occasion, it’s not a great place to live your daily life. I will never know why I survived, when others don’t, and that will have to be okay. The best thing I can do is try to keep those memories fresh in my mind, so that I stay motivated to make the changes I said I was going to make when they finally released me from the hospital. I got too caught up in the typical holiday excitement and, while I didn’t go completely overboard, lost my focus for a while.
I have to remember that my aches and pains are, for me, badges and medals for experiences I have survived in my life. I need, every once in a while, to take stock of my achievements, give them their due, and then get back to the work of living. I have to remember that:
· Both my father and my grandfather were dead by my age.
· I have survived a brain tumor.
· I have survived a heart attack.
· I have survived an intracerebral hemorrhage.
· I have survived having holes drilled into my skull to relieve pressure from said hemorrhage.
· I have survived a brain herniation.
· I have survived 21 days of hospital food!
· I am the husband of the most beautiful, loving woman anyone ever married.
· I am the father of the two most darling daughters any father ever had.
· I have been fortunate to see my daughters marry good men who respect them, are committed to them, and love them as much as I love my wife.
· I have the most beautiful granddaughter in the world.
· I have so many friends that, when needed, took time from their hectic schedules to reach out to my wife or me, when we needed their love and support the most.
· I have God-given talents that I must not waste.
· I need to smile more.
· I need to laugh more.
· I need to live my life as if I’m thankful for all I’ve been given.
I need to read this letter every day...