Hope in a Storm

In my previous post, I mentioned I had another story for another day. I decided not to make you wait too long. So here's the next installment:

I’ve had a few opportunities lately to revisit my values. I’m not saying they were crazy fun opportunities or that I had anything resembling articulation. Somehow, though, there are things in life that make what you want most quite suddenly crystal clear. Like a big event. Like a big health event. Like a big, unexpected, startling, monstrously painful health event.

I feel I’ve already had my share of them, thanks, but Sunday afternoon, shortly after leaving the breakfast cafe behind, I began to feel very strange. Bad indigestion, I thought. Does bad indigestion have you curled in a ball, rocking back and forth, and trying not to go out of your mind with off-the-charts pain? Um, no. No, it does not. I held out for three hours, and then we went to the ER.

The trip to the hospital was where I had a lovely little showdown with my priorities. I couldn’t stop apologizing. (Was I apologizing to Josh? Was I apologizing to myself? I don’t know.) I spoke about all the things most meaningful to me; all the things weighing on my heart.

“I’m sorry for complaining about how hard life is. I really do love being a stay-at-home mom.”

“I’m sorry for wasting so much time wishing for a house when we have a home right here, now.”

“I’m sorry I didn’t work harder to get my poetry published. Please make sure someone reads it!”

“I’m sorry for all the times I yelled at the kids for just being kids.”

“I’m sorry for crying. I’m sorry for not taking better care of my body. I’m sorry for scaring you.”

(I really thought I might be dying. The litany of regrets felt involuntary, as if I had no control over what was coming from my mouth because my gut had taken charge.)

There was a brief dawning of clarity amidst the pain, though, that told me I was doing the best thing I could actually be doing in that moment: considering who and what were the most important to me. It has since given me a much more grateful outlook.

When we got to the ER, I had to wait, slung over a chair with shaking body and soggy tissue in my fist, until I was signed in. As they were doing the initial information inquiry, the hospital’s traditional baby chime went off (as it does whenever a birth occurs,) and I broke into sobs. (This is another story for yet another day, and I’ll tell you about it soon, but first you want to get to the part where I’m okay again, yes?)

The staff seemed to sense that a sobbing woman must need immediate attention. I was wheeled back to a waiting area while Josh parked the car. As I sat there, I pulled a homemade card out of my purse that my daughter had just handed me before we left. I immediately felt better after reading her message, almost miraculously so. My off-the-charts pain was down to a seven on the one-to-ten spectrum.

While we waited, Josh and I had a lot of quality time to talk. Not the sort of date we really envision, but we make the most of our opportunities. Shout out to our wonderful neighbor for watching the children! Thank you, thank you!

The rest of the story is boring ER stuff. IV fluids, and some routine tests (good news: not pregnant! Which never occurred to me so it would have been embarrassing if that were my reason,) CT scan, etc. I went home with the doctor’s theory that I might have a virus but also a caution that my gallbladder may have flared up and would need a physician’s exam. Later, I read the symptoms of a gallbladder attack and what do you know? Four hours of severe stomach pain. Plus other matching symptoms. The doctor said I did the right thing in coming in, especially since I was so low on fluids. I was grateful for the reassurance that I did not just make a very expensive mistake.

All through the afternoon, I treasured the morning’s experience of meeting kindreds and sharing poetry. When I got home that night, exhausted and sleepy, I took the time to memorize the poem that was handed to me earlier and marveled at how fitting and timely the message was. It stayed in the background of my mind throughout the ordeal as a beacon of hope in the storm. I’m inclined to think it was all a little more than just random good luck. ;)

What about you? Have you ever had an unexpected circumstance that startled you into clarity of values and priorities? Have you ever had a "chance" meeting with a kindred spirit that later turned out to be what carried you through a tough situation?

P.S. Updated to add: I went to the doctor today and there's a good chance I get to avoid surgery. Hooray!

Jamie Bagley