Monday, February 21, 2011

perspective

When Audriana was in the Intensive Care Unit all those years ago, I remember taking breaks in this one hallway where other parents would gather when they took a break.  (and by a break, I mean when Rich and I would trade places by Audriana's bedside so that the other could catch a nap or get something to eat)  This hallway wasn't busy, it was off to the side of all the hustle and bustle of the hospital, and the sunlight would come in from a very large window.   It was a very peaceful place to be.

Anyway, whenever I was in that hallway, there was always at least one other parent there, too.  And when you walked over, you would do the polite "hello" head-nod to each other, or perhaps the half-smile that said "I'm a distraught, stressed-out, worried parent, too".   But that was about it.  You kept to yourself.  There was no chit-chatting.  No one who has a critically injured child usually feels like chatting to strangers, me included.  

But this one day I was standing there  by the window, looking down at all the busy people coming and going below, and another woman came over to look out the window, too.  She was holding a cup of coffee. We looked at each other and politely did the half-smile thing. Her face looked as if she hadn't slept in weeks.  I knew my face looked similar.  She was the mother of a hurt child, all right.  I knew the look. 

A few minutes passed, when suddenly she spoke.


"Why is your child here?"  she asked.  She wasn't looking at me, but still looking out the window.

I was a bit bothered that she spoke to me, to be perfectly honest.  I just wanted to be alone with my thoughts.  I just wanted to think and to pray.  I didn't want to have to talk about it.   But then again, I'm not a rude person, so I answered her.

"Car accident."   I said.  "My daughter.  She's four.  She was hit in the head.  She had to have brain surgery."

"I'm sorry," she said, and she turned to face me.  "How is she doing?"

"Well, it's been almost two weeks now.  She is just starting to wake up from the coma, you know, and she doesn't respond much.  But today she opened her eyes a bit, so I guess that's a good sign.  They say we just have to wait and see."

We were quiet for a second or two, and she went back to staring out the window.  Although I didn't want to pry, I also didn't want to seem as if I wasn't interested in her child, too.  

"Why is your child here?"  I asked.

She took a sip of her coffee, swallowed, and then let out a long sigh.   "He has a brain tumor."  she said.  "We've tried everything.  It keeps returning and growing.  Now it's wrapped around his brain stem and can't be operated on. He can't walk anymore, or talk anymore.  It's slowly taking him."  


She was still staring out the window.


I didn't know what to say.  I mean, that was just awful.  I had never met a parent whose child was dying.  I was young and had barely any life experience, and I honestly just didn't have the words.  I think  I said something like, "Oh, wow..." because I was so taken back by what she was dealing with.


She continued, "We are trying to arrange respite care in our home.  We've had enough.  He's had enough.  We want him to come home."

She went on to tell me that they were having trouble with insurance, that their insurance would pay for him to die in the hospital, but they wouldn't pay for the respite care for him to live out the rest of his days in his own home.  I thought that was terribly unfair.

He was just 9 years old, and his name was Christopher Reese.  I say "was" because it's been 14 years now, and I'm sure he passed away a short time after I met his mom.  I suppose I remember his name so well because it's so close to "Christopher Reeve" in sound.  I remember thinking that when she told me his name.  I asked her his name so that I could pray for him.

Before we parted, Christopher's mother said to me, "You are here, and your daughter will get better.  I am happy for you.  I am here, but my son won't be getting better.  My son is going to die, and I have to get ready for that."

I don't know if she said that to me because she was facing her reality and saying it out loud helped that, or if deep down she was bitter that her child was dying while someone else's was not  (which would be a completely understandable emotion to have)  or if she just said it to say it.  I don't know, and it doesn't really matter why she said it.  I am glad she said that because it put things into perspective for me, at a time when I really needed it.

It's been so many years since that conversation but yet I still think of that mother.  Her words have stayed with me, all this time.   And the lesson I have learned from them is this:  no matter how bad your circumstance is, there is always someone else who has it worse.

Always.

My daughter had been hurt, yes.  She had been changed, and her life was not going to be as it was before.  But she was coming home with us.  And she was going to live.

I was very lucky.


me and Audriana,  5 months after her accident
post signature

8 comments:

  1. Katrina, thanks so much for coming to visit my blog. It blessed me, because now I can come visit yours!

    Reading this post was perfect timing. We have a family that has a Daddy whom has pancreatic cancer, and it is humbling to know that although my husband suffers much from his spinal cord injury, he doesn't have cancer, and although in pain, he is here and home. Thanks for the reminder.

    Your family is beautiful! What sweet arrows!
    xoxo,
    Veronica

    ReplyDelete
  2. I am so glad you came by Southern Somedays to share what you are reading and give me some book inspiration!

    I am your newest follower and can't wait to read more about your amazing family. I pray that Christopher Reese's Mom found peace, though I know the pain never goes away. (((hugs)))

    ReplyDelete
  3. Oh my, your blog has become my new favorite for many reasons!! 1. My husband is the oldest of 9 (the 6 youngest were (and still are) homeschooled) 2. I have two girls, both with A names. Adilynn and Avery. (Hoping to add an Asher, Ada or an Ansleigh to the family one day). 3. I work with people with disabilites, and some have TBI's. My first job right out of college was working for two years with TBI patients. Love your blog. And your family. :) God bless!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  4. That is such a powerful memory.

    Perspective is so uplifting at times, isn't it? Even when you feel like you couldn't get lower.

    I'm sure it would be meaningful to her that you remembered her son all these years.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I have had that EXACT reminder so many times over the last year! It is as if Heavenly Father is trying to show me that I am blessed and I need to see that because even in my hardest trials, I am a TRULY blessed person. It is easy to loose sight of the blessings when you feel your world is tumbling upside down.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Wow. I can't imagine! I say this to my kids quite often: "Be thankful for what you have. There is always someone with more and always someone with less. The key is to be thankful with what God has given you...it's the only way to be happy." I just wrote a post related to this subject that I haven't posted yet! Another favorite quote of mine is "Perspective is Everything!" :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Very powerful! One thing we should never do though, is pointing someone who has it worse to a person who suffers. That would be cruel. But if we are able to remind ourselves or if we are "accidently" reminded that someone´s situation is worse than ours, than the issue of perspective becomes really helpful...

    ReplyDelete
  8. What a story to share. And, what a message. Tears in my eyes. I applaud you for reaching out to that mom with the one question, "why are you hear?" New follower... I can't even remember how I found you. I would love a visit and follow back .. laura@imnotatrophywife.com

    http://imnotatrophywife.com

    ReplyDelete