Reflection on the past can energize our future. Stop and think about the past twelve months. What unexpected events propelled you into situations you hadn’t planned? Did you complete some personal goals as well? On both counts, I bet you’ve changed. I hope you have, because that’s what makes us grow, extending and deepening our lives.
A friend of mine often reminds me that difficult people and situations offer us opportunities to learn, improve and even appreciate this crazy mystery we call life.
In the past year, unforeseen obstacles forced me to accept a challenge I didn’t expect or want. EMTs rushed my husband Joe to the ER a year ago because of a brain hemorrhage and congestive heart failure. He went into a coma and didn’t readily wake up, puzzling the doctors and nurses and sending me into a worried frenzy. As wonderful as the hospital staff was, none of them could promise me he would wake up–or wake up healthy.
After five long days, he finally opened his eyes and began talking, and to the doctors’ amazement, he said hello in Arabic to Dr. Kadifa, the phenomenal physician who was caring for him. My mouth gaped open with shock; so did the doctor’s! Although Joe has spoken Italian from birth, English since age six, and studied Spanish, German and Portugese over the years, I had no idea he could speak a middle eastern language. What was happening here? I held my breath and did the only thing I could do–I prayed.
In a few days, Joe began telling jokes (in English this time) with his own unique brand of Brooklyn humor. Slowly, he began to remember too. After two weeks in ICU, with the encouragement of a fantastic physical therapist we’ll never forget, Joe got out of bed, took hold of the walker, and paced around the entire ICU unit once. On the next day, he did it three times! Tears welled up in the nurses’ eyes as they watched him, saying, “We don’t see this very often. Your husband is one of the lucky ones!” At that moment I knew how very blessed we were.
For some inexplicable reason, God chose to save my husband from what the nurses later admitted they’d expected: that he’d wake up vastly changed, both physically and mentally, or he would pass on. . . Thank God for the family members and friends who called or stayed with me during those three solid weeks while I stayed at Joe’s side at the hospital and later, the brain rehab unit. Thank God, too, for friends online (like you) who sent me encouragement and prayers.
Once I brought Joe home, the doctors kept reminding us that his recovery would take time—lots of it (more than a year). It did, changing me forever. For the first time in my life, I became a 24-hour, 7-days-a-week caregiver. On many days, I could not think, sleep, eat or cry. Though I tried to write, I couldn’t. During the following twelve months, I learned not only how to take charge of my husband’s health, but how to detect signs of my own emotional/physical exhaustion–enough to nourish myself a bit, so that like thousands of other caregivers, I didn’t end up with serious health problems.
Now, a year later, after vigilant treatment, ever-changing dosages of meds and wonderful doctors, my husband’s overall health is at about 98%!
We couldn’t be more grateful. More than ever now, we enjoy simple moments together. We hold hands while watching Netflix movies; we talk over coffee every morning like we used to, and enjoy family & friends too; plus, we’re taking classes together again at the local college. Last week Joe even started perusing travel brochures again!
Why did God give us this amazing blessing? I don’t know. . . When I think of the tragedies and ongoing heartaches of others, I wonder more. All I can do is show my appreciation by living my life to the fullest, using my God-given talents to the max.
I hope your journey in the past year has been as equally blessed as mine. What challenges, milestones have reconfigured your life path? I bet you’ve grown and learned from them as well. I hope you’ll share your experiences here (below).
What I know for sure is that now when I see a person hobbling along with a cane or a child in a wheelchair, I give them a gentle smile or word. When I read a tragic story, I always breathe a silent prayer. And when someone I know is going through sadness, I try to text them or call more, and send them cards of comfort. I also have a new appreciation for those caregivers whose path is fraught with the gloom and worry that filled my heart in the past year. I’m aware that thousands of others spend their days caring for helpless loved ones year after year. . . My heart goes out to all of them with deepened empathy.
P. S. A few months ago, I asked Joe if he knew any Arabic and he smiled. “Not much–but enough to say hello and give a blessing.”
A beautiful and inspiring story, Kas. It made my skin tingle. So happy for you, your husband, and all your family.
As a writer, I was struck by your comment that you could not write in the midst of this trauma. I have found that to be true for me, too. The requirements of the moment – whether that moment is a week or a year or longer – demand everything of me. Writing comes later.
All the best to you and Joe as you go forward appreciating each other and life more fully.
Thanks so much for stopping by and reading my story about last year, Carol. And the gift you gave me was to know my words touched you.
The good news for me is, now that Joe is much better, I’m writing “full speed ahead!” We, as writers, can always use that kind of energy, can’t we?
Ah, Kas, such a beautiful, inspirational story you share with us. Reading it I am reminded of the last couple of years for us, similar in many ways, and how we now stand on the other side of that time and place looking back with absolute Thanksgiving. It does change our worldview, doesn’t it?
During the family illness that took us traveling and during the last almost four months I have overseen my husband’s care, I could not write either. I felt helpless to even get on paper what my heart was experiencing. I can only focus on what God has called me to do in that moment and nothing more. Bob and I find ourselves also appreciating the tiny moments so much more than before.
So happy to know that a year later Joe is doing so well and that you are once again able to write along with us. Blessings on you and your family at Easter.
Thank you for your kind words, Sherrey. I’m so gratified that my story resonated with your caregiving experiences. There are so many of us around the globe and it is a heart-wrenching and physical debilitating phase of our lives. I hope that me writing about it can be like a giant “cyber hug” for all those, like you, who need to know they’re not struggling alone.
Ah, Kas, what a beautifully poignant and inspirational story you share with us. As I read it, I was taken aback at the similarities of our lives during the past 2-3 years. I know how good it feels to be on the other side of the stress and anxiety.
As a writer, I could not write during the time my husband, Bob, and I were attempting to help caregive for his brother. Not only did we travel every 2-3 weeks, it was the emotional stress and anxiety that seemed to drain most of all. My thoughts were in my mind and heart, but I couldn’t transfer them to the written word. I wondered at that then, and now more recently taking care of Bob for four months prior to surgery and then afterwards with a clot, I realized I had had another drought in my writing life. I just couldn’t give myself over to something other than his care as my priority. It was what God had called me to do.
Like you, we are so much better now and giving thanks in abundance that you and Joe are traveling a new path. We too find ourselves cherishing the small moments, the precious ones, that before we were too busy to see.
Blessings to you, Joe and your family at Easter!
Sherrey, I’m relieved to hear that your husband Bob’s health issues are mending. But I found that I became exhausted around the time my husband was turning a wonderful corner and becoming healthy again. I “listened” to my body then, and napped whenever I needed it for several weeks. Then I took a weekend away, staying in the desert, which is only 2 hours away. I went by myself, something I’d never done, and it really revived me. Perhaps it’s an idea you can use too, to help renew you spiritually and physically.
You are one in a million, and I’ll tell you why: Many people have tragedies in their lives, and while in the midst of it, often tell themselves, “If things turn out well, I will become a better person. I will learn from this experience. I will turn what has happened to me into something I can pay forward.” But after a time, most people forget this. They only know that they were once sad, that now is better than before. But so many do not view their lives in retrospect. So it’s wonderful to know someone who, in the moment of crisis, prayed for something better, then when the prayer was answered, actually appreciates the here and now. It’s easy to make promises in the midst of despair, but it is difficult to master the art of remembering to be thankful down the road, long after the heart has healed. You, Kathy, are the best kind of artist: one who recognizes the spiritual in her every day life. : )
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Thanks so much, my friend, for your kind words! I’ve been reflective all my life, but 99% of the time it’s about trying to gauge how my life will flow in the future. This time though, I wanted to look back and try to reap the lessons God had put in my path. I wondered, “How did I ever get through those days and weeks?” The experience of writing it all out, which I couldn’t do during the trauma, was very healing. And so, I think I’ll try this again… It’s definitely good for the soul! 🙂
I read your story sitting in my dad’s living room while he is off to the nursing home to feed my mom her breakfast. It hit very close to home.
I’m so happy God chose to bless you and Joe, for many reasons. Not the least of which is I’m looking forward to reading the even deeper, more insightful, richer prose sure to flow from your fingers from this experience.
I’m so glad my post touched you as you try to cope with your mom’s illness. I would bet that most caregivers are unable to articulate the toll it takes on them. Sometimes it’s just comforting to know that others have shared or are sharing our burden.
I am blessed because Joe has healed so well. Perhaps then, I need to reach out more to others who cannot write yet about their struggle to care for another.
Thank you for sharing this experience!
What a precious story you have shared with us. We may not know His reasons but we can choose to be thankful and make the most of the days He has blessed us with. Sounds like that’s exactly what you are doing.