Ten years ago. Christmas time; shortly before. I had spent several days in the hospital in heart failure. They could not figure out why. My face had swelled up and I couldn't breathe. I remember that well. It was hard to get to the bathroom. It had nothing to do with the disease that had ravaged my body for fifteen years. Well, of course it did, but not in a direct way; I think my body was tired and was giving up. I had two kids at home, and one in the Navy. I needed to be home for Christmas. One more Christmas. They discharged me on Oxygen. My house now had oxygen tubing that could stretch wherever I might need to go. A big machine sat in the front room, steadily providing me much needed air. I was dying. I was also in the middle of a divorce. My kids were my only remaining link to life. Such a strong link they were! (Well, then there is the fact that I didn't want the ex to get everything; I wanted something to pass to my children. I knew there would be nothing if I was gone before the divorce was final.) Yes, there was a faint spark still smouldering in this body. It is hard to think about, and harder to talk about. There were no more options medically for me. It was all my choice now. The nicest thing about the unknown is just that. They cannot predict the timing of one's demise, because they cannot figure out why it is happening. I needed Christmas with my kids. I don't remember ever thinking "one last time." I just remember that I needed it. It became my symbol of survival. I had that Christmas. When things were tough I held that Christmas close and declared "but I got Christmas with my kids." That declaration helped me overcome many more struggles in the next year.
Now my kids are all adults. Two have children of their own. I am scarred, but healthy. They have their own, hidden, scars. That makes me sad. The inner strength from that small spark all those years ago has grown into an inferno. What fuels the inferno is the knowledge that we have no guarantees. I got a glimpse of that when Mom died suddenly at the age of fifty seven. I would have been forty five. There is so much to do, to see, to experience. Always too little time.
My son wrote me yesterday to remind me that our first triathlon is coming up. He thought he was kicking me in the bum to get me going on my training. (He is that too.) What he really did was help me to remember that my children are still my link to life. They help me to choose the paths I will take. They are my greatest advocates, and my biggest allies. My son can run/swim/bike circles around me. He will come back and cross that finish line with me.
Ten years ago. Who ever would have thought...