Always in the midst
“It is always in the midst, in the epicenter, of your troubles that you find serenity.”
— Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Using Drew’s phone, I took this photo of Matt, Drew and Carla on Thanksgiving Day of last year. We were awaiting a pizza that was being prepared as the last order of the evening at the only place we could find open in Bethesda, Maryland, that night. Until you know the back story, it seems like a pretty depressing place to be on Thanksgiving Day. But there is always a back story, and thanks to email records, I have a vivid record of this one. Here’s a copy of an email I had sent to family just after midnight that Thanksgiving morning, pasted below:
Jeff seems to be doing better; he was able to speak very brief sentences and seemed mostly oriented and lucid – for example, he asked me to call Drew to make sure he and Matt got home OK tonight, and asked me about how Tuesday’s surgery went (I gave him only the good news of it for now). They gave him a 7th unit of blood tonight since he is still draining from the wound vac and his anemia has worsened from the extensive blood loss. The last I heard, the plan was to take him off the wound vac and close the ever-lengthening incision (which is now probably about 24 inches long) on Friday.
Late this afternoon and early evening (until 8:00 pm) Drew sat with Jeff while Matt and I went and got a couple of hours of REAL sleep in the room we were finally able to get from the Fisher House (although I had to put on my dragon lady persona – never hard to do when needed — to get the room, after one of the charge nurses this morning was a Nazi who decided she didn’t like pathetic family members sleeping in the waiting rooms in her unit…but that’s another story…) In any case, we are grateful to now have a place to shower, change clothes, sleep in an actual bed, store our stuff without having to carry it around everywhere, etc. While we were sleeping this evening, Dr. H (the liver surgeon) talked with Drew and seemed greatly reassured at how Jeff is currently doing. Drew said he used the term “turned a corner” referring to where Jeff seems to be now. For this, and for some much-needed rest, we praise God. I’m about to go to sleep again – my room at Fisher House is less than a mile from Jeff, and the floor nurses have my number here. Before I left tonight I made Jeff PROMISE he would have them call me if he needed me. I cannot imagine him actually doing this under any circumstances, but somehow the promise was reassuring nonetheless.
It will be a long and hard road, but the outlook is considerably better than it was just 12 hours ago. Please keep those prayers coming!
Many of you will remember that day, because you were with us then, and through the long weeks and months before and after, through your presence on this blog. You will be able to understand why a cold pizza brought back to the hospital and eaten in a hospital waiting room late on Thanksgiving Day could be, under the circumstances, a joyful feast (notwithstanding that it was procured and eaten because an increasingly-lucid Jeff, unable to eat anything at all on Thanksgiving, had insisted, from his bed, that we all HAD to get something to eat).
Jeff had just endured 15 hours of surgery on Tuesday that had not been fully completed until Wednesday morning, and despite deep concern from his surgeons as to whether he would survive, it now appeared that he would. His scolding orders that we “get out and find something to eat” were music to our ears. He was back. Thus, despite each of us spending our holiday without some of the people we hold most dear, we have wonderful memories of that singular Thanksgiving dinner.
Gratitude is a relative thing. It’s possible to be rich and not know it; to be happy and not realize it. We often talk here at this blog about how there is always a reason to be thankful, no matter the circumstances. But on Thanksgiving Day last year, we didn’t have to look far to find reasons to feel thankful.
For us, this year’s Thanksgiving Day celebration will again be a bittersweet one. There will be a conspicuously empty chair at the table, one normally occupied by someone who typically would not arrive until later due to performing a job that is necessary even on holidays. I trust and pray that again this year, in the midst of earthly woes, we will find joy, peace, gratitude and serenity, surrounded by blessings that still abide with us.
If you celebrate Thanksgiving, it’s likely you also will have a mixture of joy and sorrow to bring to the table this year. None of us is spared the trials that go with the incredible privilege of being alive. My wish for us, today and always, is that we will feel deeply the truth of Saint-Exupéry’s observation that serenity is found in the very epicenter of the storm.
One year ago today: