We are no strangers to hospitals, my bride and I. Over the past several years we have dealt with her broken leg (twice) and my almost having bought the farm or kicked the bucket or some other clever way of saying I nearly died from septic shock. A return visit to the hospital is never out of the realm of possibility for us. Good thing, because we did just that last week. My longtime roommate was found to be suffering from atrial fibrillation (a medical term meaning the heart wants to be a horse’s hinny by beating any way but the way it is supposed to.) This caused a host of other problems. Hearts can do that, you know.
For reasons I am still trying to fathom, this trip was different and more unsettling than previous ones. Perhaps it was because the situation was different. Broken legs and non-functioning kidneys engender a lot of people running around in an understandable state of panic while we lie submissively in a drug-induce stupor not fully aware of what is happening.
This time it was a quiet and orderly admission, notwithstanding that we were dealing with a rogue heartbeat. While she was being admitted, I had the opportunity to observe a lot of anxious people in the emergency room awaiting word on a loved one or awaiting treatment themselves. Some looked frightened. Some sat expressionless.
Maybe it was the time of day (actually, it was nighttime.) Maybe it was a feeling of helplessness, knowing her fate was out of my hands. Whatever it was, I was suddenly overwhelmed by a sense of how gossamer-like and temporary this life is.
You think I would have figured this out when I suffered my near-death experience a couple of years ago, but I was too consumed with rehabbing my way back to my previous state of being to consider that possibility. Not this time.
This time, I have had the opportunity to see life as it should be seen — a gift. A gift that should not be wasted. Not one day. Not one minute. Take nothing for granted. Not a sunrise or a sunset. Not the assumption that a loved one will be around tomorrow for you to apologize to for something you wish you hadn’t said today.
I had a mentor named Jasper Dorsey, the head of Southern Bell’s Georgia operations when I was a corporate pup. He taught me a lot about the telephone business, but he taught me even more about life. Namely, that we should leave this world a better place than we found it by our having been here. Otherwise, we only wasted a lot of time and space.
I have spent a lot of that time and space focused on myself — my career, my well-being, my reputation. There was too much time with a briefcase at my side and too many sleepless nights spent grinding over problems that I can’t even recall today.
Now that most of my days are in the rear-view mirror, I am wondering how much of that really mattered.
Going forward, I am going to try to appreciate every day I remain on this earth. I am going to laugh more, love more, hug more, pray more and not be ashamed to cry if the occasion calls for it.
I am going to try to remember that this earth is but a tiny dot in an enormous galaxy, along with billions of other stars and that there are at least two hundred billion galaxies in the universe. That should put anything Donald Trump tweets or Colin Kaepernick does in its proper perspective.
Meanwhile, to borrow from the language of the diplomats, I am cautiously optimistic about my bride’s recovery. A lot of capable and caring people have nursed her back to a much better situation than when she first arrived. There will likely be some lifestyle changes ahead for her — dietary restrictions and a miracle drug or two. All of that is doable, thank God. (And when I say thank God, I mean just that.)
Hopefully, this experience will have changed me, also. Maybe I will be more grateful for what I have been given and less worried about what I don’t have. (I probably didn’t need it, anyway.)
It has been a difficult few days. I am thankful you are there for me to share my thoughts with you. We are a team. You and I. And that, dear reader, will never change.