It’s hard to believe that I’ve been out of the hospital for almost a month. The meds are all finished. I’ve got most of my strength and energy back. I’m back at work full time. Most of those surreal feelings that are inevitable when you wake up from a week long dream have waned and it’s back to business as usual.
I’ve had the privilege of meeting almost everyone from the ER and ICU whose name I was able to discover. There are a few folks whose names are still a mystery and a few who I haven’t yet met, but at this point I think it’s best to let these wonderful people go back to saving lives rather than forcing them to humor me in my quest to thank everyone who cared for me.
It’s just not possible to thank everyone. Random conversations with nurses in the ICU turned up any number of people who stepped in to help out for a bit. It became more and more humbling to discover how many people made me a priority, even if just for a moment.
The same is true for friends and family who took the time to come visit, call, text, message, send a card or a plant, leave me notes online, or pray. So many prayers, so many pray-ers - it has been truly humbling to hear about the old friends and new friends and friends I may never meet who set time aside to offer up petitions for my health and healing.
Some friends have made it a point to continue to care for me after I left the hospital. Mike’s mom fed me for two solid weeks. Friends carted me to grocery stores and restaurants because I had the attention span, and therefore driving acumen, of a squirrel. I am truly blessed not just to be alive, but to be so well cared for.
My friend still in ICU leaves the hospital tomorrow. I’ve been going up there to see her almost every day, but between seeing her progress and spending time with her nurses and techs and family and friends, it’s been a time of continued healing for me as well. I couldn’t be happier that she is making such incredible progress, but it’s tough to finally close the book on this chapter of my life.
In the time I’ve spent up at the hospital I’ve learned a few things; the one that still hits me the hardest is just how rarely medical professionals are thanked. I would love to tell everyone that you should make it a priority to thank the people who care for you when you can’t care for yourself, but I have to qualify the advice. Thanking these people has been one of the most difficult things I have ever done.
Looking in the eyes of someone who has comforted you, cared for you, treated you with concern and respect - someone who has seen you naked, broken, covered in blood and filth and instead of being disgusted, instead of throwing you back out on the street, instead of writing you off as dying, as worthless, as trash, they saw you as someone worth protecting, worth serving, worth saving - looking in those eyes and seeing tears start to well, tears of joy and thanksgiving held back simply because you took the time to show up, to stand up, to say thank you… it’s painful, it’s scary, it’s humiliating and humbling and so deeply, intensely, physically, emotionally and mentally draining.
Every time I felt like I made an utter fool of myself. I was excited and embarrassed and I couldn’t stop talking. I interrupted every 3 seconds. Even taking a breath risked the possibility of a break down. Worse was knowing that the end of the conversation meant good bye. It’s hard to be in the presence of someone whose entire existence seems to revolve around compassion and care and not immediately be addicted to the experience.
But walking away… when the conversation ended, it was impossible to not feel like the entire universe came to a screeching halt to just take a moment to be completely, totally, absolutely right. I love to smile, but these were the sort of smiles that turn you inside out, that take all the pain and fear and humiliation and dump it all out on the floor and replace the ensuing void with more joy and peace than you could ever manage to fit inside yourself on your own.
It’s not the almost-dying that changed my life. It’s not the life-saving that changed my life. It’s the eyes, it’s the smiles, it’s the hugs and the humility and the joy of the people who refused to let me die, of the people who did their job and prayed their prayers and encouraged me in the vain hope that it might just barely be enough to make a difference… that’s what changed my life.
I’ve spent a long time saying that the whole point of life is to leave people better than you found them, to honor the ones who came before and serve the ones who follow. Never in my life have I so intensely been the focus of exactly that by such a tremendous host of people. To all the ones to whom I must now say goodbye, please know that you are in my prayers and in my stories and in my heart. To all those whose walk with me has not yet come to an end, please know that you are in my prayers and in my stories and in my heart and, to my immeasurable joy, in my life.
Posted with : Bare with Me