A few nights ago, I had the scariest experience so far, to date. I had a mass inside of one of my ovaries the size of a racket ball and it ruptured, while at home. The pain was excruciatingly worse than the natural childbirth I had with all three of my children. Believe me when I say, that I have never felt anything like it before in my life. As the pain continued to grow over the span of ten solid minutes, I was on the bathroom floor, panting and holding onto the bathtub as the room was spinning and everything around me going black. I felt all of the blood drain from face as it turned to ice, and cold sweats broke out across my forehead. My chest was hurting and I couldn’t breathe as I started to pass out from the pain that had enveloped my entire abdomen, from sternum down. At first I thought I was having a heart attack and kept thinking if I could only yell or throw something to get my husband or child’s attention, but I couldn’t move or speak. In that instance, all I could think of was that I was about to die and my husband and child would find me this way. As I started to black out, I saw all of the people in my life whom I love. I could feel the essence of my son, my sister and my grandmother in the room as though they were standing right over me. I saw in my head a slideshow of the faces of my husband, kids, parents, and friends and I felt the ache of knowing that I wouldn’t see any of them ever again. The pain continued to push through every solitary threshold that I had ever known, and I just kept thinking, this is it. Somehow I managed to slur the words out in a whisper, “Not yet God, please.”
At the utterance of those words, the spinning slowed down, and the light that was fading to pitch black started to come back, bits at a time. Shortly thereafter I was able to call out for my toddler to go get her father, to help me. I wound up in the ER where they confirmed that the mass had ruptured and the pain was from it and its contents touching the rest of my internal organs.
After I got back home and for the past several days, all I could think about is that experience. How closely I came to going out in a most unflattering light and the people in my life not knowing how much I truly love them. As I have been home, convalescing while I await surgery this week, I’ve been kind of teeter-tottering between being somewhat present within my mind, in the now, and more present in that place of having brushed with death. It was like a bad dream that I still can’t believe actually happened. One minute I was helping get my toddler into bed and the next, I am in the bathroom thinking I’m going to die with only minutes in-between. I have always said that I would be ready to go whenever my time comes, but when I saw the faces of all whom I love – I wasn’t ready and I knew it. It was an experience that I don’t think I will ever forget for as long as I live. And then came this weekend.
My precious teenage daughter came down to spend time with me, knowing a summary of what happened. I tried to convince her to let her old mother stay home and rest and for her to just go and have fun with people who aren’t so decrepit as me, but she was set on coming down either way. When she showed up to the house, she came with bags of groceries, gifts for her baby sister and a fish and fish tank for us. She told me that she wanted my husband to take care of me and she would take care of us. The meals that she picked out at the store to bring, were ones that she felt confident that she could make by herself, for us. The toys for her sister, she handpicked to keep her busy so that I could rest, and the fish was something she wanted here to cheer me up while I get better. My daughter has watched me sick for quite some time now and has been an angel about not making demands of me or pressing me to go here or do that, in typical teenage fashion, thankfully. She could’ve been any normal teenager and thought only about what would make her happy this weekend, but instead she made a trip to the store to get things that she could use to help lighten the load here. That gesture alone, meant everything in the world to me. She didn’t have to do it, but she did it anyway.
As we caught up together, she began to tell me about her day at school and how a girl was making fun of her, “They talk about me because I need someone to help me open my Gatorade bottle at lunch, every day,” She said. “Most of the people are happy to help me, but this girl… I thought she was my friend, but she was talking about me because I needed help. So I just got up and moved to another table. I don’t need to be around people who are ugly for no reason.” In the first few seconds of her telling me what the girl said to embarrass her, I felt that mama bear anger rising up — But as she finished her story with such grace and poise about her, I thought that she handled it way better than I would have and I was undoubtedly proud of her.
A few years ago, my daughter had a massive brain hemorrhage that covered the entire left side of her brain. She was in the hospital for two weeks and in the ICU for most of that time. She temporarily lost her speech and ability to write, as well as her fine motor and cognitive skills and her short term memory, in the process. She and I spent the next two years in and out of various rehabilitation therapies to get her back on track. She bounced back by leaps and bounds, but it took a lot of work on her part just for her to get there. It’s a time in her life that she has no real memory of, but somewhere inside of it birthed the foundation for her current strength of character and endless compassion for others. Her needing bottles opened for her is just a part of what damage the brain injury did to her motor skills and knowing that another child was making fun of this, made me see red. To hear my daughter talk about it in such a stoic and emotionally intelligent way for her young age though, was astounding to see as her parent. The girl had no idea what all she has overcome and why she needs help, because my daughter never talks about her injury. Instead of wasting energy explaining herself to the girl, she got up and moved. That takes a remarkable amount of awareness to not only handle that situation in such a way, but to also understand that there are some things that you just don’t need to give your energy to.
When my daughter left yesterday evening, I was still basking in the glow of her loving gesture to take care of her dear old mom. And as I thought about it this morning, I realized that she had the presence of mind and of heart to help take care of me, because she has had her own experience that gave to her the compassion required to be so selfless. Her own life experience, grew her in areas that it takes many of us a lifetime to understand.
As I watch our new pet fish swim around in his tank, I think about where my daughter’s head was at the time when she decided to do something so special for me. She had just had this experience at school and instead of being bothered by it or coming home with a negative attitude, she decided to pay it forward and help someone else. To help her Mom. I couldn’t be more proud of the young woman I have raised and equally I could not feel luckier than I do right now to have been given another chance to know and love her even more.
Sometimes in our lives when we need it the most, people show up to help ease our burden. Most times, it’s from the very ones that we least expect it and often it’s because they too have needed help. They don’t have to show up, but when they do, it makes all of the difference in the world. Somehow I got lucky to have a husband, children and parents who are relentlessly compassionate to the world around them. It’s because of them that I can face each day, no matter how tough life gets. My circle may be small, but it’s a mighty one filled to bursting with huge hearts and boundless compassion! I could not possibly be surrounded by better people than I already have, right in my corner. For them and for tasting another day alongside them, I am so very thankful.