This is a journey through doubt, fear, pain, and joy. It’s a story of healing self in mind, body, and spirit through choices made in a lifetime; a story belonging to anyone; a story without gender, race, or wealth. It’s my choice! I think of the many times I’ve told myself that and the years it took before I believed it. They’re reminders that I own my decisions regardless what the situation is or who tells me what to do. Today, self-reminders are less frequent because I feel in control of my whole life, not just part of it. Why? Because I have a free will, God’s gift to each of us. It’s a love-gift given freely, unconditionally. It is without strings, enabling me to choose my journey, my path. I believe that it is by loving ourselves we can make progress and become better. I believe that our purpose on earth is to become better human beings by recognizing that special light within us—God. To you, reader, God may be the Universal Consciousness, Allah, or the Almighty. Whichever it is, remember it is your choice!
I A SAD TIME The alarm rang loudly, too loudly, I thought, as I pulled my tired body from the bed and shuffled to take a shower and brush my teeth. Bud, my husband, got up too and went downstairs. While brushing my teeth, I remembered it was Wednesday, horseracing day. Damn! My gut feeling told me he was taking a half-day off from work to be there in the afternoon. It was the end of the month, January 31—his payday. I felt my anger surfacing as I saw him losing his whole paycheck again, a frequent happening. That meant bills would be paid late again, including the mortgage. With children, a place to live was my priority. Damn the tracks, damn the sickness of gambling and damn those who fed off other people’s weaknesses! I wished we had never come to Arizona and lived far from the tracks and Las Vegas, another of his haunts. The day was only beginning and already I felt down, locked into a life with no hope for happiness. With a heavy heart, I dressed and went downstairs. Little did I know then that I was causing my unhappiness. Bud was sitting at the breakfast counter, smoking his usual non-filtered Camel and drinking last night’s warmed-over coffee, another sore point with me. I never could persuade him to switch to a milder brand although he knew the risk for lung cancer if he continued. I also felt that coffee left overnight in a metal pot was harmful to the body, and with caffeine stimulating acid production in the stomach, no telling what other harmful reaction could take place. This was another example of ignorance for the truth that I could not choose for another. With purse in hand, I walked past him without giving him a good-bye kiss. I opened the back sliding door, stepped onto the patio, turned to face him and said, “And don’t forget to pay the bills today!” Everything about me was angry—stance, face and voice. I expected a rebuttal but all he did was look at me as though too tired to say anything, an unusual silence. I didn’t pursue it because I was tired too and knew arguing resolved nothing. I closed the sliding door hard, and as it closed with a thud, turned and walked to the car. Even as I started the car, I thought it strange he didn’t answer, and while driving to work, I recalled how tired he looked with a dark, grayish coloring—a coloring I hadn’t seen before. I brushed that picture aside when I arrived at work. Work was as a clinical laboratory scientist (medical technologist), at a specialized laboratory in a large Phoenix hospital. I called messenger service to bring the scheduled patients down for their tests, assisted the doctor, monitored patients and did chemical analyses on patients’ samples. A part-time technologist assisted, making patient load manageable and allowing quiet time in the afternoon to complete chemical analyses. While completing my work, I recalled how Bud looked in the morning. I felt funny inside, a strange gut feeling that something was wrong with him. My mind lingered on that picture for a few moments then said, “Nah, forget it, he’s okay”. That afternoon, our youngest daughter, Sandy, had a dental appointment at the opposite end of the city. She was only six, but seemed mature for her age. Sometimes she would make statements unusual for her age that we’d listen, look at each other, and wonder how she knew that, or where did she get that thought? She also kept things honest. When describing an event or situation, we couldn’t deviate or embellish it because she’d say, “Uh, uh, that’s not what you said” or how it happened and reiterate verbatim or describe the scene more fully. She had a good memory, wasn’t talkative but was observant and could, if she chose, to articulate her thoughts pretty well. Of the children, I saw her as the most serious and often wondered why she was so different from her siblings. I had been well conditioned by the older children who were high-energy mischievous creators and who often were far ahead of me. I wasn’t accustomed to a serious straightforward child, but welcomed the change. As I was paying for her dental service, the phone rang. The receptionist answered and said, “Yes, she’s here” then handed the phone to me, saying it’s the hospital. My heart sank with questions racing through my mind as I took the phone—who’s sick, who’s hurt, what happened? I took the phone, said hello and held my breath as I listened to the voice identify the hospital and herself as the emergency room nurse. When she said, “Bud’s here in the emergency room”, I thought my son had been in an accident with his motorcycle, but when she finished her sentence “with chest pain”, I knew it was my husband. She asked how soon I could get there. I replied, “In fifteen or twenty minutes” but I wasn’t really sure if I’d make it in that time. I knew there would be after work traffic, and with Phoenix being a spread out city, traveling could be slow. I slowly handed the phone back to the receptionist trying to feel the words, “chest pain”, not daring to think the worst. I stood frozen for a moment then turned to my daughter, telling her we had to go to the hospital to see Dad. I don’t remember starting the car, but I do remember driving to the hospital with questions running through my mind—“is he going to die, how bad is it, why didn’t he have symptoms before, was the pain under his left shoulder blade two days ago a sign? I told him to go to the doctor, but he wanted to wait until his doctor’s appointment tomorrow.” He had hurt his back sneezing two weeks ago, but he seemed to be mending and said the prescribed daily heat and ultrasound treatments were helping. As I drove to the hospital, I remembered our youngest was with me. She was so quiet I had forgotten about her. I glanced at her sitting on the passenger side so straight and proper. I had expected to see a fearful child wondering what was going on, but instead, saw a child’s face void of emotion, no fear or tears. I was startled to see such a stoic composure and was puzzled, but then she was never one to cry easily. I wondered what she was feeling or thinking, but didn’t ask, thinking “She’s only six, too young to know or really understand what’s happening.” Little did I know that children intuitively know what happens. They do have thoughts and feelings but may not know how to express them. Traffic was moderate and flowing well and my watch said we’d reach the hospital within 20 minutes. When we arrived, I was surprised to see our youngest son, Evan, already there. I asked him how he knew Dad was there then remembered that the doctor he worked for after school was our family physician and friend. His partner was the physician on call that day, and since their office was near the hospital, our son, who can move like lightening when he wants to, was there in no time. He had such a frightened look I wanted to hug him but knew he disliked being treated like a little boy. He asked why I took so long in coming. I studied his face but didn’t answer. His mind was on Dad and there was no use telling him that in an emergent situation a short time seemed forever. We walked into the emergency area, and while he and his sister waited, I went into the office to speak with the nurse. She took me to Bud. His face was pale, devoid of blood, with large beads of perspiration though the room was cool. It was sad to see him without his usual vitality and energy, shoulders drooped, lines on his face deeper than before, so tired and burdened as though carrying the whole world. I leaned toward him and softly asked, “Hi Dad. Are you having pain?” He looked at me with eyes half closed and slowly shook his head. I watched his labored breathing and wondered if the oxygen was really helping. I felt so helpless, that same feeling I have for very ill patients who are close to death.
During a coronary angiogram, the author had an out-of-body experience, leading her to find answers to questions from childhood to now of who, why, where, when and how. The author, now retired, lives in Hawai'i.