Life’s this giant potpourri — and I’m mixed as I walked into his funeral service.
And into the Children’s Emergency Department months after.
My obstetrician, he was merely 54.
His heart had stopped pumping right on the ground his feet were still standing.
Yeah, life’s that short — and we’ve gotta live with that fact : and choose to either tip down or thrive up.
He was our town’s “Gentleman of Obstetrician”. Loved by all, he skilfully delivered my last two babies, and warmly welcomed their first safe arrivals, their budding new lives.
My kids are now all grown, but there were many newborns with their mums still sore from childbirth at the funeral service that day.
And none of us in the whole maternity ward had expected his sudden departure. Not one single breathing soul had welcomed his premature farewell.
And who knows how long we’ve each got.
Or what life will throw at you next?
Who’d tell you that you’re meant to work one day, or sleep the next, or that you’re meant to bolt faster than lightning because of that one call that makes you realise how short this life really is?
Time runs faster than feet, and we’re wild to want this spin to stop.
The school nurse rang just as my feet landed home.
Said my boy was struggling to breathe.
Said he couldn’t talk, that he wasn’t responding fast enough to the ventolin, and that the oximeter reading she was monitoring was dropping.
It read 71.
He was out of breaths.
We called the ambulance.
I’m crazy enough to believe that I am one woman whom I thought would always be in the wake of life.
That I’d have all the time in the world to decide how to run my days, live my life, choose my companion, pick my attitude…that I don’t really have to keep a short account of anything if I don’t want to?
There were stones in my heart I wasn’t ready to roll and wounds still fresh from the graze not ready to heal.
So I sat for many days with this: time’s our great equaliser and we’re both the young and the old, and all subject to the mystery of man swirling from dust to dust.
And only years before that I thought I’d have a say to how every wind ought to blow in my way.
That I could have everything my way — because this is my time, my life.
My wonderful obstetrician telling me too that I could have as many babies as I wanted to — ‘cos I’m young, and that time’s on my side and that he’d deliver each one of them over and again.
But I’m beginning to see that time really isn’t on our side.
It’s not ours to hoard forever.
Time’s not a privilege we get to earn, only a portion we get to spend.
And we’ve gotta choose how we’re gonna live the rest of our time with what we’ve been given. That’s all.
Or what I’d choose with that one stone blocking the beat of my once healthy heart.
Ask the woman with the cancer, and she’d tell you that what fazes us isn’t what fazes her. Observe how she’d strive to multiply each minute moment big.
Ask her if she’d dismiss the insignificant, the small and the mundane, if making school lunches, kissing boo boos, wiping bottoms isn’t a big deal —it’s the hallmark deal.
She’d tell you how she’d keep fighting another round of body-battering, mind-messing, and emotion-shattering chemo, just for another few days to sit and muck around with her rowdy bunch.
The little becomes the large, the gritty — glorious.
And thrivers in life — aren’t they the ones who know how to rise above life’s stir?
Aren’t they the ones who through gritted teeth choose to not allow life’s mix of peaks and valleys to madden them, but to mould them?
And the breaking of their lives not to embitter them, but to enlarge them?
Maybe the winners in life are those who in the process of making sense of their life’s messy mid-story, allow His story to shape the size of their heart and the strength of their soul.
We can all be the wounded healers — those who live to show that the scars of our hearts can be the healing for many hearts, and that we can somehow fully love even when we aren’t fully whole.
In the emergency room that day, I held his hands.
He’d worked his breathing into a frenzy, and found himself gasping for air.
His fingers curled right tight catatonic.
The four or five nurses rushed to his side – trying to slow his breathing down, trying to draw his blood out, trying to put the drip in.
And we’re all hyperventilating for the same oxygen of grace, our curled fingers desperate for faith to pry us open to the certainty of God’s love.
And I knelt right down and whispered it into his ear, “I’m here, I’m here.”
I stroked his curled fingers straight, smoothed his strained heart soft, and said it again and again, “don’t worry, don’t worry, I’m right here…”, all the while trying to train his heart to slowly breathe.
To slowly inhale.
To slowly understand that there is a love so wonderful that it can cover all our sense of loss, all our reason for despairing life and fearing death.
Because this is the truth:
Strokes of love maybe what we need to comfort a heart cynical and make it cheer again.
Voices of compassion can rekindle a combustion of care even where cruelty of life would have crushed many hearts.
And acts of kindness — aren’t they recipe for the sprinkling of love when there are days when you feel like you’ve been lied to, a thousand times before, and over again?
I remember it well, that day at the funeral service.
How you can stand at the furtherest row from the pew and see the sea of faces of all the left-behinds, grapple through and through with the silencing agony of our impermanence.
Yeah, I get it now – life’s this transient train, and we’re passengers of the the terminal and the temporal.
And I no longer want to stand at the periphery of life and watch all that whirl, and live with this bane of mere existence.
I want to more than just touch: but feel, more than just exist, but live.
My obstetrician, he’d chosen well with his time — the brick and lumber of his existence.
He saved my life not once, but twice.
I’d bled so bad every time this inch-wide cervix pushed each baby out, that I’d shiver with fever and slither in pain, begging for that wrecking pain of placenta’s remains to come off the wall of my womb.
He’d warn me that for him to stop the bleed and all the risk of hemorrhages and infections, he’d need to put me in pain.
He needed to pain me in order to save me.
That the pain would be necessary to heal me.
And how he’d allow me to squeeze his hands real strong as he pushed his hand straight through and tear that which was once life-giving but now death-daunting off my uterus wall.
I’m sure I had almost broke his wrist, but he knew that at the end of every bleeding mother, there is life, and at the end of every hurting heart, there’s healing.
My pain of the ruins now overshadowed by the act of healing, and if I can trust the hand to heal me rather than crush me, I’d survive —-we will survive.
You will survive.
So I tried to soak everything in the hospital with my child that day.
The hospital’s a world of its own, you hear the screams and the wails, the constant beeping, and then the influx of nurses checking up every hour of the night.
But when you allow yourself the sober realisation that life carries with it the fact of suffering, and the high possibility of death, you sorta see yourself a little differently.
You allow pain to sit with you, and in that space, turn to the One who can heal all your pain.
You begin to crave for a reason to wake in the face of life’s all possible quakes.
And slowly find the tremor of new life resurrecting to fill a once empty shell.
That the way to really really live, even in the face of death, is to know the One who goes beyond the grave, and now extends His grace, so you can live His life and feel His heart.
And live like Jesus.
And love like Jesus.
Let your hands be bruised and blistered in the act of your real living.
Because time isn’t for us to preserve or squander, but to lay down and give away.
So lay your life down, and be not afraid of gritty living, of eventual dying.
Let the thrum of your heartbeat not be one hoarded, but one hummed to, by those touched by the act of your living, the ripple of your loving.
The doctors didn’t leave no stones unturned.
After a thorough series of testings to cover all possible bases, my son was finally cleared for home.
We were soon discharged, and we eagerly took an Uber ride back.
And I am a woman slumbering in the wake of real living, in stupor at the sound of His great calling, because busying myself on my phone, I only looked up moments before we arrived home to look into the soul of my Uber driver, my fellow man.
I asked him how long he’s been driving, why he’s been driving.
And he wasted no time spilling it all out.
How he’d been fired from mining to driving because the money tank’s all drying, and how he’s got to keep driving to keep the hopelessness at bay.
He sighed at how little money there’s to make in driving, complained about how he’s got to clock up ten hours behind the wheel to earn a mere hundred dollars.
And I, suddenly jolted to real living, and simple loving, reached for a fifty dollars note, and tucked it into his hand at the end of the ride.
To which he asked in his Russian accent, “and what’s this for?”
And I’m feeling the tremor of new life arising, said it to him — and more to me:
“This is for you to remember, that God loves you, that He hasn’t forgotten about you, and that He’ll pull you through.”
And sent him driving away with a thanking smile behind his darkened glasses, his thickened accent, and my now bountiful heart.
Maybe limited days are multiplied, and wounded hearts healed when you live the remaining of your days trying to stop the bleed in someone else’s hearts, when you can be the answers to someone else’s prayers.
Maybe the miracles of the blessings are in the breaking. And we can all run with the women to the empty tomb and see the stone removed.
Because there is a pot of bougainvillea bambino swaying at the front of my porch when I got home that day.
It was from him — my Uber driver, who’s written a universal signature of thanks, an anthem only the parched souls know far too well: every stone has been removed.
I’m breaking out in smiles.
I’m humming along with him, the rider and the driver and all the passengers on the train boarded for eternity : The tomb’s empty, the Man’s resurrected, and we can reign in life with Him and #LiveConfidentlyForward.
I reached for my phone, and gave my Uber driver a top rating — 5 out of 5.