Today is the first day of the rest of my long life. Why? Because yesterday I thought I was dying. It all started when my mom decided to get an insurance policy on me for financial reasons. As is necessary for any insurance policy, I had to have a medical exam to make sure I was worth insuring. So a couple weeks ago, a nurse came to my house and checked my weight and blood pressure, asked me a bunch of questions about my family’s and my medical history, and took a bunch of blood. It wasn’t a big deal until I found out that my sister’s results (my mom got a policy on her as well) came back almost 2 weeks ago while mine were being held up for some reason even though we did the medical tests on the same day. When the insurance agent asked what the hold-up was, they sent him some cryptic email about possibly waiting for a medical request or some such thing. So that’s when I started to worry.
When I found all of this out on Thursday evening, I started to feel sick to my stomach wondering if there was something wrong with me. Then Friday morning I woke up early and wasn’t able to go back to sleep due to worry. I couldn’t help thinking I had cancer or some other awful disease, and I wondered if I only had a few months to live, a few precious months to spend with my children and my husband. I started thinking about if I should go through chemo, if I should try to cure myself through a drastic change to my diet, or both. I wondered what emotions might have caused this to happen and how I could release those emotions once and for all.
And I wondered how my family would make it without me. I thought of my little toddler who is so shy that he doesn’t like to leave my side in unfamiliar environments. I thought of how cute he is when he’s sucking his thumb and how he needs a haircut. I thought of my adorable little 4-year-old and how I would miss her silliness and sweetness. I thought about how much I want her to never lose that fun, energetic side of her no matter what and wondered how I would be able to help with that if I’m not here. I thought of my very serious 6-year-old and wondered how she would handle life without me there to love and validate her. I thought of the way she says “Mom!” in this particular tone of voice whenever I say something to tease her, a tone of voice that says, “You’re not really serious, are you?” And I thought of my amazing 8-year-old who is so talented and has so much to offer already and yet is so unsure of himself. How will he understand just how precious and priceless he is if I’m not here to confirm that in him? My heart ached thinking about my little ones having to go through life without their mommy there. And it ached wondering if they would even remember me, especially my baby.
I wondered how my husband would cope without me. Would he lose his temper with the kids more? Would it soften him up because he knew that’s what the kids needed? Would he stay his cheerful, lovable self and continue looking for ways to serve people? Would he remarry right away? How soon would the ache in his heart go away? Would he miss our late-night conversations when I keep talking to him even though he’s tired and wants to go to sleep? Would he miss finding my hair all over the house? Would he miss my not-so-gentle nudges to change a bad habit?
I also thought about a funeral I went to recently, the funeral of a dear friend’s mother. This woman spent her whole life serving others, and I was so touched as I listened to her children talk about the legacy she left behind, a legacy of love and charity and service. What would people say about me at my funeral? Would they have a hard time thinking of anything to say because of how self-centered I tend to be? Would they talk about how gung ho I always was about triathlons and running? Would they say that I cared way too much about what others might be thinking of me? Would they say that I had so much potential but that I didn’t really live up to it? Would they have anything more to say than that? Would anybody truly be able to say I was a great friend or sister or mother or wife or person? Would they be able to say that I listened to and followed the Spirit? Would they be able to say that I gave of myself serving others? Would they be able to say they learned to be more Christlike by following my example? Would they be able to say that I was humble and compassionate? That I was filled with charity and gave of my time and love freely?
It was a long day of introspection for me. When I finally got a phone call in the afternoon telling me that our agent had received the results and that I had received preferred status–the highest level possible–I almost cried with relief. I felt so grateful to be alive and, ironically, so grateful that I thought for half of a day that I was dying. I received such a powerful look into my soul and was able to see what was most important to me and what should be most important to me even when I’m not on death’s doorstep. And guess what? The messy house and our finances and my appearance aren’t at the top of that list.
I wish I could say that I didn’t do anything wrong today after my perceived brush with death. But I did. I got frustrated with the kids, and I ate more poorly than I should have, and I said something insulting to my husband, and I spent too much time on the internet. But I also felt joy and gratitude. I noticed how sweet my kids are a little more often today. I was able to respond lovingly more than I responded angrily. I felt closer to my husband. I set up an appointment to get our family pictures taken. And I didn’t allow myself to get stressed just because the kitchen isn’t spotless. Life is so good. I am grateful for my life, and I am grateful for my health. I am looking forward to a long, fulfilling life.
It is great to be alive!