What I’ve Learned in 52 Weeks

On a cool Friday morning, exactly 52 weeks ago, I stood in the doorway and watched the EMTs guide my husband, Randy, into the back of a truck with bright red flashing lights. In the pre-dawn darkness, the lights reflected off the trees and houses announcing to the world that something had gone terrible wrong in the neighborhood.

After a 12-day hospital stay involving a long list of tests, blood transfusions, difficult procedures, and finally, answers we didn’t want to hear, we left the hospital with a drastic change in our life course. End-stage liver failure would be our traveling companion for the rest of the journey.

Now, a year later, I’ve learned some things that have made a significant impact on my life.

I thought I knew that life was fragile and not to be taken for granted. But over this last year, and especially those days in the hospital, waiting for answers and watching my husband struggle with so many challenges, I gained a fresh perspective. I learned that I can not only trust that life is precious, I can find things to be thankful for even in the challenges.  We have learned better eating habits, we have learned to be intentional about each day. We realize that we may not have another.

Sometimes we can hear people say, “We don’t know what tomorrow holds,” and it can sound cliché because we hear it said so often. It’s not a statement to be brushed aside. We have learned to truly “seize the day” and it has made us stronger.

I’ve learned that although we can still struggle with our mortality and wonder about, or fear the future, those future days are not here. All that is here is today. If we lose today because our thoughts are constantly on what may happen in the future, we’ve lost the only thing that really counts. This day. This opportunity to make something good out of the moment we are in right now.

We still struggle some days. Still feel like we are living with a ticking time bomb with no idea when it could go off. But aren’t we ALL doing that?  We all know that we have a finite number of days on this earth. But when we are healthy, we can push those thoughts aside and decide to “worry about that later.”

When you have been given a terminal diagnosis, you suddenly realize that someone has turned on the timer and it really is ticking away now. So what do you do with that?  You have to keep getting up in the morning. You have to keep paying bills and making phone calls.  You have to go to the grocery store and put gas in your car.  You have to decide to LIVE just like you did before and not fall into the temptation to just sit down and wait for whatever is going to happen. The fact is…we are ALL terminal. We just don’t have something in particular to blame it on yet so we can conveniently ignore this fact.

I’ve also been reminded that family is precious. Even though I don’t always agree with the choices my sons make, my love for them overwhelmed me as I watched them rally around their dad in his most difficult trial. They showed up, they stood by him,  and they prayed for him. Sometimes they don’t really get that it is an ongoing challenge for us but I know they will show up again when we need them to.

This week we will celebrate the year God has given us. We will be thankful for the days we’ve shared that seem like a bonus. We’ve made so many wonderful memories this year that we may have missed if we hadn’t made the decision to be more intentional about our lives.  I am grateful for the way our circumstances have forced us to take a closer look at the grace and mercy of God.  Each day is a gift.  We are perhaps, living in a more genuine way than we ever have before.

One thing I can still say for certain is, God is good. He has been faithful to us every minute. Nothing has happened that He hasn’t been there to guide us through every detail.  We are grateful that Randy is stable right now. That could last for another day, or a year or a decade. While we pray for many more years together, we have become content with today. This is what we have. Today.