Death, an old friend

I recently went to the hospital for a significant surgery. I wasn’t expecting to die but I was glad to have a chance to prepare a little, just in case: I recorded all the bedtime songs I sing to my daughter and made a cd for her, I arranged to have a friend check on my husband as my surgery would be wrapping up so he wouldn’t have to cope alone if I didn’t come out of it, I spoke to significant people in my life during the week leading up to my surgery. It wasn’t morbid and it wasn’t out of fear, it was just reasonable preparation motivated by love.

As I lay on my stretcher in the hallway outside the operating room I prayed that if I were not to return that God would help my little family find their way through life without me. As I woke afterwards my first thought was realization and joy that I survived. Although I was as ready as I could be, I’m glad this wasn’t my time.

On a smaller scale I experience that feeling on a daily basis. I live with two complicated medical conditions. Myasthenia Gravis has been said to be rarely fatal but frequently life threatening. That’s enough to make me not take life for granted. I know that any day I could stop breathing. Even more basic than that, I know that if I stop injecting insulin I won’t last long. Each day I consciously work to keep my body going and so I appreciate each day because I know my life is not my own. Nothing is guaranteed.

Whenever I start to share these thoughts with people they want to brush it off and they say things like “oh no no, you shouldn’t think like that. You’re healthy. You take care of yourself”. But my thoughts are not bad thoughts. Every once in a while I do feel a sense of screaming panic that my child may have to live without a mother, but for the most part I’m just really glad that I’m here. All these days are bonus. I was supposed to die when I was 16 and my pancreas stopped working. Had I lived a hundred years ago that’s what would have happened. But it didn’t. And so every day since then has been bonus.

Within Harry Potter is a tale of three brothers, each possessing a supernatural gift. Like the third brother I have an invisibility cloak that shields me from death. (The difference is that mine was given to me by modern medicine rather than death himself.) Although I’ve been avoiding him so far, death is an ever present companion, shadowing my daily life, always on my mind. When I do go, it likely won’t take me by surprise as it does most people. I’ll remove the cloak and greet death as an old friend.

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