Birth-day vs. Death-day

Yesterday was my birthday and I spent time at the hospital, not to be confused with in the hospital, which is the reality that wooed me to writing today.

My middle son, Bennett, had a rib extracted (look up Thoracic Outlet Syndrome for some fun reading)! He is home now and doing great. But I find it ironic that I spent my birth-day at the same hospital I almost spent my death-day 7 years ago.

Some of you might be tempted to feel sorry for me that I spent my birthday reflecting on how I almost died, how I spent time in 10 different hospital rooms on multiple floors, how I sat with visiting friends in the sunny courtyard, how I roamed the halls while I spent 70 days there over a seven month stretch, and how I was admitted in the very same department as we admitted my son the day before. It was all very surreal but don’t you dare spend a minute having pity on me…

I loved it.

In a twisted way, I embraced the memories and absorbed the history of it all as I ate the cafeteria food I had “enjoyed” dozens of times in the past. The only downside was I didn’t get my special button so I could have them serve me whatever I wanted, in bed, whenever I wanted; I soooo miss that button.😥

Because I am free of Leukemia today, I can celebrate. Being present there, on that specific day, was a wonderful gift from God…no doubt in my mind.

But, as per usual, I also had a couple new insights while hanging out in the waiting room during his surgery. Hang tight while I pontificate about one of them.

Picture a room full of people, from all walks of life, various ages, and gifted with a wide variety of social skills. The main thing, maybe the only thing, we had in common was that we were all waiting to hear about the progress and prayed for the success of someone’s surgery – someone we loved or were at least obligated to support ( we have probably all been in both scenarios).

There was a desk by the front entrance with a land-line phone on it. No one was sitting at the desk, like they would have pre-pandemic. There was a simple note that instructed people in the waiting room to lend them a hand: if the phone rings, please answer it and then, somehow, find the people/person the nurses are trying to get information to about the patient and put them on the phone.

yellow and silver rotary phone
Photo by Markus Spiske on

Alrighty then.

So, occasionally it would ring, and whoever was closest to the phone or had the least tolerance for the incessant ringing or is one of those weirdos who likes to be all up in everyone’s business and be uber-helpful (possibly me), would answer it. Then they would wander around calling out a last name until someone answered (and not to tattle, but the Browns had apparently just left their “person” there and gone to lunch or something!).

As this continued to happen, it occurred to me that everyone who answered the call to get a message to the family member of a sick person, was also a family member of a sick person. Probably a very, very sick person if they were needing surgery. But again and again, people answered and got outside of their own fear, worry and waiting for their own results in order to do their part, in order to bring a message of good news even when they didn’t know for sure that their news would be the same.

I have been preparing to do a few events, what I call Soul-Selfie Soirées, in the next couple of months, and seeing this played out reminded me that:

…even when our story is rocky and precarious, even while we are still “sick” with the dis-eases of cancer, addiction, resentment, control, anxiety, fear, doubt, etc., we can still use our stories to help others who are going through the same.

We will never be 100% whole and put together this side of heaven, but you might be just far enough along that your solutions might benefit someone else who struggles with similar issues.

This idea reminds me that the very first chapter of my first book is dated March 29th. I got out of ICU March 3rd. I didn’t know if I would live or die from Leukemia. What I did know was that up to that point, I had enough to say about hope and faith and healing and was ready to share it with anyone who needed to hear that message.

I’ll say it again for the thousandth time: It’s not what I write about that makes me keep writing or keeps others reading, it’s why I write. I write to let others know they are not alone in their struggles and there is always hope.

I don’t have to be “all better” to do that. And either do you. Your story matters. It matters to others and it matters to you. Quit waiting until you get your act together, your life cleaned up, or your circumstances ironed out.

When you tell your story, it’s a win-win: It will encourage and strengthen you as much or more than who you tell it to.

Stop waiting.

Answer the call.

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