Every year, I write the story of “how I almost died”. It’s full of sorrow and triumph, of uncertainty and peace, of loss and love. It’s a great story, meant to remind me of what I almost lost and how I found myself.
It’s been 7 years. I no longer remember the names of each nurse that changed my dressings, or held my hand while I cried, or who answered each cry of pain with a soothing voice and a dialudid injection. I can still smell my room, the plastic cleanliness of it, the sweat of my night terrors, the bandages that held the IVs in place on my arm. But it takes me a second to remember the name of the surgeon who turned his car around, missing dinner with his family, so he could save my life.
The story has been condensed. Now, it’s…well, my gallbladder tried to kill my pancreas and instead of dying I became a diabetic. It’s an anecdote, a footnote, a water cooler topic. It’s been put away with all the other stories that I’ll pull out over coffee. Let me tell you about that time I almost died! What a hoot.
Sometimes I feel guilty about moving this story into the box of past adventures. But I realize what a gift it is, to have made it 7 years past an expiration date. To be able to laugh about making funeral plans. To find any joy in such a painful experience is a privilege. The story is changing; the story is no longer about the fight of my life, but about the aftermath. About how a part of me did die during that time and from that how I learned to truly live.
Today, I took a walk with Frida. I watched her eat berries off a cedar tree, bound after me, tail wagging the entire time. I watched her and thought to myself how fortunate I am to have saved her. She can’t understand what happened to her, but she knows that I will always be there. She will never know my name, but she knows that my hands will always caress her. She will never know that I was terrified that she would die in my arms, but she knows that my arms will always hold her. She can’t talk to me, but she sees me as her safe place. And if I had to do it all over again, I would go through the near death experience…just so I could end up back here, delivering Frida.
Two Thousand Five Hundred and Fifty Six is how many days I have lived since then. Those are the most important days of my life. And I have lived. I have traveled, I have made art, I have been published and awarded, I have learned how strong I am both emotionally and physically. I have found my tribe. I have found myself. I have laughed, cried, and fought. I have never backed down from a challenge. I have taken risks. I have failed. I have succeeded. And I have loved.
That is the legacy of the Doctors that saved me, of the Nurses that healed me, of the Family and Friends that stood by me. I am a product of their fight, of their determination, of their faith. My life is only mine because they gave it back to me. To honor them, I live open. I live authentically and vulnerably. And I love. I love because Love was poured into me 7 years ago. Love is what brought that hospital room to life, what brought me back. And when Love is hard, I think to myself…how lucky I am to be here. What an honor it is to dream. What a gift it is to think about a future.
How grateful I am for possibility.