Saturday, January 29, 2011

A new perspective

This week I had something really terrible happen.  My youngest son stopped breathing to the point of turning blue and almost losing conciousness.  In one horrifying moment I was reaching for my phone as I felt his rigid body start to go limp, and I thought, "I'm going to lose him."  My shaking hand had dialed 9 when he gave a little sputter and a cough and took one beautiful hitched breath.  I sunk to the floor clutching my baby, looked up to the ceiling and whispered the most sincere "Thank you" I have ever uttered in my life.

Most of us have difficulty facing our own mortality, but the mortality of our children is unthinkable.  The thought that the bundle of cuteness and budding personality before you could slip through your fingers in a matter of minutes is unimaginable.  And that's all it takes, just minutes.  In the aftermath I found myself counting minutes.  It takes at least 3 minutes to get everyone in the car.  It takes about 10 minutes to get to the hospital.  It takes ADT anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes to call after the panic button has been pushed.  And the last time that happened, it took the police 15 minutes to get to my house.  It took me more than half a minute to realize he was really in trouble.  Minutes.  No matter how I added it up, I didn't have enough minutes of my sons life to get help.

Unlike many things in life, when it comes to life itself, there are no do-overs.  It's easy to get bogged down with the details that keep our lives moving forward from day to day.  Bills to pay, shopping to do, houses to clean, meals to prepare, homework, baths, laundry.....the list goes on and on.  It's easy to forget that those details have no weight when balanced against the things that are truly important in our lives.  Hugs to dole out, boo-boos to kiss, I love you's to be said, patience to have, forgiveness, tolerance, kindness....this list also goes on and on.  A house is just a house without the people that live in it.  A family cannot prosper and grow without honest and open love for each other.  A community is just a group of people without caring and concern for one's neighbors.  The value of the lives that we live will not be measured by the things that we have, but rather by the things that we give.

This week I received a scare that left me shaken to the core, but I also received the gift of perspective.  I got the chance to stand back and look at my life and see what was important and what was just stuff.  As I sat on the floor listening to the sweet wailing of my child, I looked into the frightened eyes of the other two and found the strength to put my own needs and fears aside so that I could draw them into my arms and tell them,"everything is going to be ok."  After all, that's what raising kids is all about.  Putting our needs aside so we can tend to theirs.  And by doing that, we can show them what has importance and what is just stuff.

The writing of this post took 3 days.  Hours of thought and actual writing went into what might take the average writer about 45 minutes.  But I'm a mother of 3 precious children, and my writing process endures hundreds of interruptions so I can put their needs before mine.  Some might find such a process incredibly frustrating, and in the past, I have too.  To finally complete a thought and find the right words only to have a small voice ask for a drink of water, or to have to referee an argument, or answer a cry for help, can be frustrating beyond belief.  But this week I'm able to calmly see to whatever my children's needs may be, and not worry about the dishes in the sink, or the unmade beds upstairs, or the unwritten words still in my head.  This week we all survived what could have been too tragic for words, and I was awarded with a little perspective.  

My perspective has not erased any of those day to day resposibilities.  If we don't pay our bills we'll have to live on the street.  If I don't do the shopping there will be no food for my family.  My kids still need to be bathed and clothed and fed.  They still need to do well in school and learn that proper preparation will help them be successful.  But, my perspective has taught me to be more generous with my hugs and kisses, to say "I love you" more often, and be more patient and tolerant when it comes to little demands.  While I haven't been given a do-over, I have been given a chance to be more appreciative of the things that are really important in my life.  You know them as my 6 year old, 3 year old, and the baby, but my husband and I call them Abigail, Elijah and Jonah.  There will be more cooking next week, but not before I renew my First Aid and CPR training.

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