The gift of crisis

Carla was waiting for Matt when he woke up from his cardiac ablation. October 2012

Aunt Carla was waiting for Matt when he woke up from his cardiac ablation.
Washington, DC, October 2012

“You have been offered the gift of crisis.  As Kathleen Norris reminds us, the Greek root of the word crisis is “to sift,” as in to shake out the excesses and leave only what’s important.  That’s what crises do.  They shake things up until we are forced to hold on to only what matters most.”Glennon Doyle Melton

Probably the only person I know who comes close to really understanding what Matt’s life has been like so far, is my sister Carla. Like Matt, she was born with a lot of medical challenges that meant she spent far too much of her childhood in hospitals.  As if all that were not enough, as a young girl she was severely injured in the automobile accident that almost took our mother’s life, which resulted in more surgery and hospital time.

I can say in all honesty, though, that I’ve never detected the slightest bit of self-pity on her part about all she has suffered.  Instead, I remember her telling me about the friends she made in the hospital, the doctors and nurses and fellow patients she described, how she loved the many cards people sent her, and how I always missed her patient and cheerful spirit when she was not at home with us.

It’s no coincidence that Aunt Carla has a particularly close bond with Matt.  She’s the one who came to stay with him during Jeff’s long hospitalization recently, and the one who also was here with us for Matt’s own recent cardiac hospitalization last October.  She and Matt share a lot of inside jokes, a love of the Pink Panther movies, Monty Python’s Holy Grail and similar zany humor, and so many silly giggles that I have occasionally been known to tell them both to STIFLE IT!!!

But what she and Matt share most is an understanding of what really matters; an intuitive sense that eludes most of us who get in a tizzy about things that are relatively unimportant.  As Melton says, crisis sifts out the empty fluff and leaves behind the essentials that enrich life most — and, obviously, that includes love, loyalty and a lot of laughter.

Have you ever been offered the gift of crisis? If you’re like me, you’d do your best to politely decline it.  But that’s usually not an option.  What, then, has it taught you? What got sifted out, and what remains?

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.


  1. Chris

    Very touching. It would seem that Carla has been a blessing for you, in various ways. To some degree, I think most folks endure crises throughout their life. It’s part of it. As I look back, I’ve had a few. And it’s taken the better part of my 64 years to glean the “important” things that matter. But I’ve finally made it to that stage where I don’t worry as much as before. I’m trying to focus on the essentials that enrich the life we have today.
    Have a great week!

    • Thanks Chris. I agree that almost everyone endures some tragic or life-changing events in this life, although it does seem to me that some have more than their fair share. I remember a minister once saying that life was like riding in the coach cabin of an airplane after deregulation, when some people maybe paid $99 for the same ride that others paid $300, $400 or $500 for. Everyone is dealt a different hand and some get better cards than others. Having said that, anyone who is lucky enough to live a long life will unavoidably endure more sorrow than those who die young. Many of those who make it to 90 or 100 will bury some of their children as well as all their siblings and probably their spouse as well. None of us is spared, so as you say, we have to focus on making the best of whatever time we are allowed. Hope you’re having a good week. I’m loving the fall weather!

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