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.”