This I believe: that life is unceasingly forgiving.
My first brush with death came when I was a college going teenager. The asthma that has been my life-long companion flared up, and at some point became severe enough for the doctor to be called. By the time the doctor arrived my breathing had stopped.
I remember still this image: there I was hovering by the ventilator near the roof looking down at the solemn group of adults clustered round my bed. I wondered what they were so worried about.
That I am writing this is proof that asthma did not win that battle. Did almost dying teach anything? I don’t think so. That is not an age given to introspection. A teenager is invincible. The joys and sorrows of everyday life were of more pressing concern than wondering whether the sun was brighter, the sky bluer, or even whether the stars would shine for me again.
Life moved on. Marriage, two children, and the demands of the family took over. We were out shopping for a birthday gift for our son when the pain hit. It was an unrelenting, twisting, stomach-churning ache. My legs started to buckle under. We were bewildered, and debated what to do. Worsening pain decided the issue. My husband turned the car towards the hospital.
It was an ectopic pregnancy. The doctor said the blood loss was great. Death knocked at my door again. All I remember is a silent voice within me repeating over and over again, “I don’t want to die.”
Well, life didn’t want to let go either. By one of those coincidences that add to the mystery of being, the attending gynecologist had worked for the same firm that was my husband’s employer. My husband is an engineer. The doctor had been an engineer too. His interests changed, he studied medicine, and when we needed an expert surgeon he appeared.
The filling of forms takes time. Beside, we did not have our medical insurance card with us. “Let them through,” said the doctor. “I know the company that he works for.”
See? Snatched from death’s door again. There was no sudden awakening then either, no gratitude to this incredible present life offered. It was back to the grind because I made it so, allowing myself to wallow in anger, frustration, even despair.
It is only now, sixteen years after the event that I’ve begun to realize that all life has a purpose. Like raindrops making their way down the leaves of trees in a thickly wooded forest come thoughts of thankfulness and wonder dripping slow. What is it that life wants to teach? It has taken a while to awaken, but now I am ready to learn.
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