Sunday 28 March 2021

Easter and Hospitals

I've spent a lot of time reflecting on my blessings the past few days in preparation for Easter Sunday, especially the deep and lasting love I feel for my Savior who gave his life that I might live with him again if I am willing to repent of misdeeds, sins and thoughts that are a common to mortal man and strive each day to be more like him. I love knowing that he is my advocate with my eternal Father and is always there when I need someone to turn to who truly understands what I am going through. That's not often the case with family members and friends who have their own struggles to deal with and don't always know what to say. He has been my constant companion since I was little girl and has never censured me when I didn't remember to call on him as I should. I know his arms are always open to hold me when I'm scared, alone, in pain, having doubts or feel as if I don't have the strength to go on.

This season of rebirth brings me a little closer to him as I reflect on him rising from the tomb that early spring morning and the joy he brought to all those who believed in him and loved him so completely. Even the earth heralds his resurrection. The tulips and daffodils are coming up, and the pansies that survived the winter are already showing their beautiful purple colors. I even managed to get the fertilizer with crab grass control on my lawn before the only rainfall we've had in what seems like forever came last week, and I am anticipating the first cutting of grass and filling bucket after bucket with weeds, despite what pollen, leaves, dust and mold do to me. I first noticed acute allergies to every plant and grass outside the day I graduated from college. I remember the red, weepy eyes and stuffiness very clearly. But I've never let that stop me from enjoying my own little piece of nature. I get allergy shorts every week or two and supplement that with over-the-counter medication whenever necessary because I refuse to quit digging in the dirt.

But this past week has been a little different than the way I usually spend the first days of spring. I've had heart problems since I was nine and never really believed I would a long life, but I also knew that God was in charge, and I would be here for as long as it took to complete my earthy mission. Six and a half years ago while living in Missouri, my doctor diagnosed myocardial ischemia (a blockage in my heart not necessarily due to the rheumatic fever and micro-proplase I've had for decades). I kept telling my doctor here that I had it, but he was a GP and said everything sounded okay. So I didn't think much about it until the symptoms became so severe that I decided to see specialist and called his office for a referral.

His nurse wasn't too pleased with my request but said she would check it out. When she called back and said the referral had been placed, she told me that my complete records had gone directly to the records department at the clinic instead of to their office so the doctor didn't know about my condition. It was a copout because I had told him a dozen times about my issues, but I guess he was just too uninterested to listen. It was easier to blame everything on getting older. I suppose there are a lot of lessons to be learned from this beginning with incompetency, but that's not the reason for this post. However, it is a clear reminder to anyone who is not getting the help they need or deserve to push harder at being their own advocate.

Anyway, after several incredibly expensive tests that only confined the prior diagnosis, I am scheduled for an angiogram on Thursday morning. They need to find out where the blockage is and how bad it is before my heart decides to give out. The procedure sounds very unpleasant and is complicated by the fact that I will have to wear a mask while it is being done, even though I've had both Covid shots. (Just another one of the vast issues surrounding the past couple of months that make me more irritable than usual and keep me from watching mainstream media.) 

I hate to admit that I'm scared, but I am. While the PA who made the arrangements for the procedure seemed to feel like a stent or two might be all that was required to get me back on my feet, and doing the yard work I love so much, nothing will be known for sure until whatever they're using to get through my veins and into my heart makes its rounds. I'm definitely hoping for good news because it will ruin my vacation plans if they have to do any bypasses. I told the PA my concerns and that I wanted to wait until May to have it done because I needed to see my sister. But when he said he wouldn't advise doing that, I had to reconsider living a longer life over having more immediate fun. I certainly didn't want to be admitted to a hospital in a different state where I didn't know anyone.

I guess that's what really got me thinking about our Savior's gift in a slightly different way. While I don't anticipate any problems, these could easily be my last three days on earth since there are major risks with any surgery, and there's so much I simply haven't done. They aren't big things - not like traveling the world, going on a cruise or even perfecting one of my talents. It's not taking the time to show added love to the people I care about most, offer more service where there is a need or making someone's day a littler brighter by taking notice of them when no one else will that has me concerned. These are things are should have been doing all along, but like most everyone else, I get easily sidetracked by things far less worthwhile.

My wish is for everyone to have a glorious Easter season filled with family, deep personal reflection and more gratitude for the gift only the Savior could offer. I love him with all my heart and want to be with him again, but I'm hoping I still have more time here to take care of things that have been left undone. Adding a codicil to my will hardly seems enough.

Sunday 14 March 2021

Just Cut the String

The last few months have been rough for most of us. Some of our reasons for feeling a little unsettled and even completely down and out are much the same, but a great many of them are individualized to our unique situations in life. I'll admit that my generally positive self has taken a beating as I watch the country I grew up in and always believed would remain the home of the free and the brave take quite a nosedive as special interest groups push their agendas above those of the masses - law-abiding citizens who love God, family and country. I've become so out-of-it emotionally that I actually raised my voice  to the salesman who came to my home last week wanting to sell me solar panels and told him how I really felt about some of things that have been happening recently in regards to how we obtain our power, gas and oil.  

It's not how I generally react because I really do appreciate honest, hard-working Americans who are trying to make a living. It's how I was taught to conduct my life and why I worked so hard to get what little I have, but I'm getting tired of having people tell me what I should be doing, and how I should think, feel and act if I want to be politically correct and not upset someone else. Well, I've been upset too. But like so many others, I'm afraid to speak up too loudly for fear of being mocked, criticized or targeted for having my own beliefs. I believe all men and women were created equal, and we should love and respect each other for the kind of person that resides within, not by the color of someone's skin, their political beliefs, or how much money they have. 

Before I left the house today to take a homemade, marble cake with white, fluffy frosting to my son for his birthday, I was praying to know what I could write that might be beneficial to someone else. I haven't done much of that lately because I want my writing to be uplifting, not cause anyone to feel more sadness or distress. There is still so much beauty in the world and so many people trying to live virtuous, good lives while loving and serving others. I want to be part of that group. I've always thought that if I could pick one word I hoped people would remember me as being when I am gone, it would be that I was kind.  To me, kindness embodies almost every other virtue because it's hard to be kind if we don't truly love others, pray for them daily and do whatever we can to make their sojourn on earth a little better.  

I suppose that's why when I read this little story one of my former students wrote, it hit me so hard. Not that it talks about kindness per-say, but because it talks about cutting a string. That string could be anything when it comes to what may be holding us back from reaching our true potential and being happy in the here-and-now. There isn't much any of us can do about the political climate, the weather, the impact Covid 19 has had on the world or any of the executive orders that have been signed that take away so many of the rights our  founding fathers fought so hard for us to have. But we can still live each day with gladness and do at least one kind thing for someone else every day. 

I've decide that the string I need to cut is the one that ties me to the fear I have right now because I know my grandchildren will never get to experience the world I grew up in. Not that it was perfect by any means, but we were not controlled by the media. We spent time as families listening to each other and doing things that brought us closer, even when life was very tough. I cry when my granddaughter tells me what classmates say to her because she believes babies have a right to be born, most cops are good and people should be able to decide for themselves what they want to do or become.

God is in charge. He knows the end from the beginning, and I will not live one day longer than my allotted time on earth. For that reason alone, I must learn, once again, how to to live my life with purpose, hope and joy. I must embrace challenges that cause me to reach and grow because that is the only way I will learn how strong I really am. I cannot be afraid because God has given me a mind to think with, make decisions and decide what is right for me. Agency is a beautiful gift - one that was given to every man, woman or child - and I must use mine wisely because someday I will have to account for how I used it. 

I'm going to share Chad's story now. Take from it what you will. Not all of it is grammatically correct, but the message is clear. Some of the greatest blessings in life come because we are willing to cut the string that binds us.

The first police officer reaches under the one-ton bale of hay and attempts to lift it off of me. Of course, it doesn’t budge. He grabs his flashlight and shines it under the hay into my face. I blink. He yells over his shoulder to his partner, “He’s alive! He’s alive! Help me move the hay.”

But even working together, two officers can’t move it – not a fraction of an inch. A thousand pounds each! Of course they can’t move it.
“Cut the strings,” I whisper. My voice is weak. They can’t hear me.
I am not going to last much longer. If they will just cut the strings, the bale will break apart, and they can drag me out of here.
“Lift, Joe, lift!”
“Just cut the strings,” I mumble, “Please cut the strings.”
“C’mon harder.”
“It’s too heavy! We can’t lift it. We gotta go for help! Hang on Chad, we’ll be right back!”
I am alone again in the growing darkness. Wonderful painless, peaceful, irresistible sleep beckons. I struggle to remain conscious. One. Two. Three. Four… Where are they? How long does it take for police, fire, ambulance to arrive? Where is the Coast Guard? Where are the Marines? Where is that one old farmer with enough common sense to just cut the strings?
The desert air grows chilly as the sky darkens. I grow weaker. Dizziness overcomes me and I begin to drift off into that gray space somewhere between the living and the dead.

Help finally arrives. One of the police officers bends down so I can see his face. “Hold on! A fire engine is here. There are six men aboard.”
I do the math. Two big, strong cops and six burly firemen must move a ton of dead weight off me. That’s two hundred forty five pounds each. No way can they possibly do that – but somehow, miraculously, they do. A couple of neighbors who have arrived at the scene stand by to catch me. They lower my limp body to the ground where I lie in a broken heap.
Why didn’t they cut the strings? They could have saved a long, tortured hour.
How heavy is hay? A piece of hay is about the weight of a feather. How many pieces of hay does it take to make two thousand pounds? Lots. That package of sixteen bazillion individual pieces of hay wrapped in a gigantic bundle is a crushing weight. But separated, it would have been nothing. 

I feel bad saying this because it makes me sound ungrateful – and I am very grateful to the guys who saved my life that night – but there is a point to be made here, isn’t there?
Is it too big?
Is it overwhelming?
Cut the strings – just cut the strings!
Are you buried under crushing burdens? Projects that are too huge? Schedules that are too complicated? Maybe you are trying to do too much at once – trying to do everything instead of doing something.
Cut the strings and cut yourself free. Do one thing at a time – and get it done. Move “out of the strain of the doing into the peace of the done.”