Monday, August 13, 2012

Courage - Looking Death Squarely in the Eyes

We have so little control over our lives and over those of the ones we love.  We have little control over the lives of our clients. We have little control of the future, and we can't change the past.
We can only really exist in the present moment with any satisfaction, the past is gone, the future is uncertain.

My mom is still in the hospital, KU Medical Center.  When she went to the community hospital,  Centerpointe, the surgeon told her she was too sick and her lungs were too damaged for her to survive bypass surgery.  The news was devastating, before that day in the hospital some two weeks ago, we had no inkling that she even suffered from coronary artery disease.  In our (my) defense, neither the internist nor the pulmonologist apparently had that inkling either.  The news from the cardiac surgeon was dire, and his approach was brutal.  "If I were you, I would go home and enjoy the rest of my life (even though the cardiologist confirmed that she was a "ticking time bomb" and she would have a massive heart attack if she were not treated).  The surgeon had no reservation in telling us how fit he was when he climbed the highest mountain in Colorado.  Just what a grievously ill patients wants from her doctor, a whose-in-better-shape challenge from her egomaniacal physician.

So, what's there to do? I have spent plenty of time these past few weeks gnashing my teeth and tearing my clothes (figuratively) fearing the loss of my mother.  This stress and dismay has no affect on what is going to happen. She seems to have survived quintuple bypass surgery, through tough odds.  The stress sometimes gets to Mom, but it is making me sick. It even made me paranoid and a little crazy. My mom took this situation in stride, while I mourned her death, repeatedly, even though she lives. I am thankful she lives and is improving. Why can't I just be grateful for every moment I have with her?  I am fortunate. My mother is still smart, articulate and clear headed. We still talk about politics and which book we will read next.  She can't walk that well right now and she detests being confined in the hospital where she has no possibility of even the most basic privacy. She rarely complains. She takes her challenges one day at a time, as I have instructed her to do. Yet, I am failing at this very task I require of her.

I am tired and worried. I did not have a quintuple coronary bypass. I was not cut from neck to breast nor was my sternum sawed in two. Yet I am the simpering, moaning, crying one of the two of us. I don't moan and cry in front of Mom, just out of her earshot, to siblings, offspring and spouse. She is a widow.  What little complaining she does is to me. And after that first horrible news, she rarely complains.

Our character is revealed most when we experience adversity.  My mother is an unlikely hero.  I never knew she would display so much grace and courage with her existence on the line.  I, on the other hand, am a blithering idiot, sometimes frozen with indecision and despair.

This experience has taught me something. Perhaps I am not as tough as I think and perhaps my mother is courageous beyond my wildest dreams.  Live in the moment and sometimes you discover how your loved ones shine. One thing I know, I love my mother and I want her to stay for a long time. I don't care how old she is. So there!


  1. Hoping and praying for the best for both your Mom and you. This post about a rather scary subject is both insightful and instructive and it offers an important lesson for a topic that will confront us all in one way or another.

  2. I lost my wife years back but if she was still with us I know without a doubt I would be just as you are with your mother in her trying times with health if my wife was ill. It’s hard to be strong when life is so uncertain in dealing with love ones and their health issues.

    Weird part is I use to be the one the family always looks to for the answers, the support and strength to deal with any and all issues. But it was from the elders in my family that I learned how to be strong and wise in dealing with all family issues.

    But in the end we are all only human and death does scare us all but as we get older I do believe we understand it better and can deal with it better. We begin to understand it's a part of our life we will someday deal with. Nobody wants to go too soon but in the end we all have a date with our name on it. My advice is cherishing those around you every day and cherish what you had with them after they are gone the rest of your life as well.