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 all have 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. He 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 his funeral service that day.
And his sudden departure? — none of us had expected it.
Not one single soul had not sobbed of 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 and sleep the next, or that you’re meant to bolt faster than light because of that one call that makes you see just how short 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, that the oximeter reading she was monitoring was dropping.
It read 71.
He was out of breaths — we called the ambulance.
And I’m crazy enough to believe that I am one woman who could always be in control of life.
To think that I’d have all the time in the world to decide how to run my days, live my life, pick my attitude, forgive or not forgive…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 is our great equalizer and we’re both the living and the dying; all subjects to the mystery of man swirling from dust to dust.
And only years before had I thought that 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 told me that I could have as many babies as I wanted to — because I was young, and that time was on my side and that he’d deliver every baby time and again.
But No Sir, time is not on your side, neither it is on mine.
Time isn’t ours to hoard forever. Time is a privilege we get to spend, not a right we get to keep.
And we have to choose how we’re going to live the rest of our time with what we have been given — that’s all.
Or what I’d choose with that one stone blocking the beat of my once healthy heart still.
Would I keep the offense and rot, or forgive so I can go?
Ask any mama with cancer if she won’t strive to multiply each minute moment big; if she’d dismiss the seemingly mundane — making school lunches, kissing boo-boos, wiping bottoms, if they aren’t just the big deal but the Hallmark deal.
Ask if she’d keep fighting another round of body-battering, mind-messing, emotion-shattering chemo just for another day 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 enlarge them?
Maybe the winners in life are those who in the process of making sense of life’s messy mid-story allow His story to shape the size of their heart and the strength of their soul.
Yeah, we can all be the wounded healers — those who live to show that the scars of our hearts are for the healing of others. That we can still fully live even when we don’t feel like we fully could.
In the emergency room that day, I held his hands.
He had worked his breathing into a frenzy and found himself gasping for air.
His fingers were 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.
They were all trying, and we are all hyperventilating for the same oxygen of grace — for our curled up fingers to pry us open to the certainty that God’s love is in control; even when circumstances don’t seem to be.
And I’d knelt right beside him that day 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: “I’m 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 fears of losing control.
I remember it well, that day at the funeral service —
How you can stand at the furthermost row from the pew and see the sea of faces of all the left-behinds, and grapple through and through with the silencing agony of your impermanence, and know: Life is a transient train, and we are all passengers terminal and temporal.
And I desperately want to live.
I no longer want to stand at the periphery of life and watch all that whirl, and just touch but never feel, exist but never live, because I am afraid to love again.
And afraid to be hurt again.
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 my 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 warned me that for him to stop the bleed and all that risk of hemorrhaging and infection, he would need to put me in pain.
That he needed to pain me in order to save me.
That pain is necessary to protect me.
And how he had allowed me to squeeze him tight as he pushed his hand straight through my uterus wall.
I’m sure I had almost broken 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 is hope.
And at the end of our inability to forgive and forget, there is God supernatural.
My memory of the pain is now overshadowed by the fruit of my womb, and if I can trust His hand to heal, I will survive.
You will survive.
So I tried to soak everything at the hospital with my child that day.
The hospital is 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 realization that life carries with it the fact of suffering, and the high possibility of death, you see your life a little differently.
You allow pain to sit with you, and all that hurts and in turn face the One who is your hope.
You begin to crave for a reason to ride life’s all possible quakes.
Let your hands be bruised and blistered in the act of your real living.
So that the thrum of your heart can be hummed by those touched by the act of your living and 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 home.
We were discharged, and we eagerly took an Uber ride back.
And I am a woman slumbering in the wake of real living; asleep at the sound of His great calling because busying myself on my phone, I only remember to look up moments before we arrived into the heart of my Uber driver, my fellow man.
I asked him how long he had been driving and why he had been driving.
And he wasted no time spilling it all out; how he had been fired from mining to driving because the money tank was all drying, and how driving kept his hopelessness at bay.
He sighed at how little money there was and complained about how clocking up ten hours behind the wheel merely earned him a 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, 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 I 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 heart.
Maybe the miracle of hope is in forgiveness; in letting go so we can go.
See every stone in your life removed.
Because there is a pot of bougainvillea bambino swaying at the front of my porch when I got home later that day.
It was from him — my Uber driver, who had written this universal signature of thanks —an anthem the thirsty soul knows too well: every stone is removed.
I am breaking out in smiles.
I am humming along with him, the rider and the driver and all the passengers on the train boarded for eternity.
I can forgive. I will forgive. I am forgiven.
I reached for my phone; gave my Uber driver his rating — 5 out of 5.