The first week of March I celebrated another year of life. The next day I birthed a new life. Two days later I had a brush with death and spent several days in the hospital, including three days in the ICU. Those days away from my family and the following weeks altered my perspective on being alive.
I was keenly aware of being separated from my children, especially my newborn. Separation was the farthest thing from my mind when I was planning my postpartum recovery. A sterile hospital room was a far cry from my cozy home and cuddling with my baby in his first days of life. By the time I could cuddle with him he was nearly a week old and that hurt so much. When I did get home, everyone seemed taller and more capable; I wrestle with those lost days.
On a daily basis we hear of tragedy: lives gone in a heartbeat or calamity leaving devastation in its wake. Tragic news has become so commonplace that I had almost become desensitized to it; my sympathy almost rote. But as the ER team worked to save my life, I encountered my vulnerability and in an instant felt the fragility of my existence. I was one missed heartbeat away from death and there was nothing I could do about it. And if I was that fragile, my existence that temporary, what does that mean for my husband? My children? My siblings? My parents? Everyone I hold close and who they hold close?
There’s a juxtaposition in my mind consisting of my newest son’s birth and the tenuous thread upon which life hangs. There is such power in the transition from unborn to born; in terms of distance , it is a relatively short journey but the process is complex. And yet everything in the process is designed to bring that life into the world. It’s powerful and miraculous and intricate. It is this complexity that builds within me a yearning to value each moment of existence.
At times it hurts to think of the days we won’t get back. For instance, I can’t get back those days when my baby was two, three, and four days old and I wasn’t able to see him because I was in the ICU. My littlest girl matured so much while I was in the hospital and I missed that process too. I worry about my parents getting older and they live so far away; all of those days apart between annual visits are days forever gone and not shared. As sand slips through our hands only leaving a few grains on our fingertips, so time moves on with only a few moments fully developed into lasting memories.
A friend reminded me that as finite human beings we will never be able to be as present in each moment as we want to be and that requires some acceptance. However, intentional living can be accomplished to some extent: take mental pictures of those ordinary moments that have become so dear. Today I took one of my mom’s profile as she sat by me in church; I took another one of my newborn’s toes pressed against the palm of my hand; and I took several mental photos of my baby girl practicing her toddling steps. I am tuning into my toddlers’ darling ways of talking and our older children’s silly jokes; I am appreciating that I can soothe a sick child’s worries and can tuck everyone into bed at night.
Sand might be slipping through my fingers but I am making sandcastles along the way.