Her words were soft and slow in coming, as she struggled to breathe. Her body was weak and frail and the effort seemed to take hours. But when the words finally came, they hit me with a force.
She said, “For months I have prayed for a miracle. I prayed that I would wake up and this cancer would be gone. That I would jump from this bed and step back into my life. A life filled with busy and full days of rushing to my daughter’s softball games, yelling at my boys to clean their rooms, and balancing phone calls from the office while trying to grocery shop. All the things that at the moment would have seemed stressful and annoying, but in my memory today meant a normal and healthy life. Such a contrast to the tubes, the pain and the energy that fades from me each day. Today, as I accept the ending of my journey I no longer pray for the miracle that I wanted, I accept the miracle that has been granted to me.”
I reached out and held her cool, frail hand as she took another breath and continued. “I have had the blessing of a life filled with people who love me. I have been given the gift of parenthood and the privilege of knowing unconditional love. I leave this world now fully knowing and understanding that I was here for a reason. I had a purpose. Realizing this before I am gone has been my miracle.”
As she closed her eyes, I sat for a while thinking about her words. At first, it seemed odd to me that she used the word miracle as she did. When I think of the word miracle I focus on the traditional meanings and connotations. That is a miracle as a powerful outcome that defies logic and the powers of nature or humankind as if guided by spiritual power. An event that is statistically unlikely and for which there is no logical or human explanation.
As I left the hospital, I took a deep breath of the cold air that hit my face and I thought about the many faces of those that I have sat at the bedside through their dying process. Some struggled with the fear of dying and held onto anger and resentment that this had happened to them. Some clung to the hope of a miracle, a cure, and asked for every medical intervention to facilitate the cure while others resigned themselves and accepted the end of their life– some in defeat and some in peace.
This 42-year-old woman who was only days away from taking her last breath was gifted with the awareness of her value and her worth. Her miracle was the realization that life, her life, had purpose and meaning. A reality that she did not recognize when she was running through her hectic days, but became clear to her as she lay in her hospital bed.
Her miracle was a mindful focus on the moments and events that mattered. A powerful reminder that despite our best efforts to control and manage our life’s path, much of it is not in our control. What we do control is the moments that exist in the present. These are the moments that sustain us and often the ones that are reviewed at the bedside.
My hope for all of us is that we mindfully and consciously live in our moments. Perhaps we need to pay attention to how much energy we expend on anger and frustration at the traffic, the annoying boss, and our financial struggles.
How many times do we hear ourselves saying I wish it was Friday, I wish it was summer, I wish it was retirement, etc.? But what if our greatest and most cherished bedside moments will happen on a Monday morning or in the winter or during our work life. What if our purpose and the difference we will make occurs during those moments?
Just maybe we miss opportunities to see and hear people right in front of us as we bury ourselves in our electronic devices and put our energy into future activities and plans with only a casual recognition and glance of the present.
What a blessing to have our moments and the recognition of them as a miracle.