A recent blog reader commented on my pandemic lessons post with the comment "we are not all scared and trying to stay alive." I have had to sit with that for a few days. I am not scared of death... for many reasons... but a lot of it does have to do with my blood, sweat, and tears I have poured into countless patients for decades now... as well as my faith, but the two seem very intertwined when I think of my own mortality. I think another reason is that I have a chronic illness and I know end-stage pulmonary fibrosis (how my disease usually pans out) is not a cake walk, so if God calls me home at another time for another reason, I am okay with that.
But, I think it's her last little bit of commentary that hasn't settled well in my soul. "We are not all trying to stay alive."
We are not all trying to stay alive. 🤔 🤷♀️ 🧐
But aren't we, though? Isn't that why all of these scenarios insight fear, panic, palpitations, stomach-drops, sweaty palms, and often tears?
This post is not meant to be a Debbie Downer. It's meant to be a reality check for myself, and perhaps for you too.
Every SINGLE day in my work, I encounter people I hold dear now after all these years that are FIGHTING to stay alive. Whether it is cancer, chronic disease, renal failure requiring dialysis, congenital or acquired physical disability (think MS, cerebral palsy, and paraplegia to name a few), OR they are in an unsafe home environment OR they are mentally on the brink of self-harm. they are each FIGHTING to stay alive.
The following examples have all taken place in the past 2 years along with countless other patient deaths (some covid, some not), but these have rocked me.
I lost my first patient to suicide this year and I am not the same. I always worried about him. I would leave our visits thinking about him. Did I do enough?
I lost a close friend my age, someone I admired- so many admired- this past year to a 6-year battle with colon cancer, and I have tried to help my friend of 27 years keep herself and her children together during and after that loss. I am still learning - we all are. This is new territory for us.
I lost a patient my age that was so much like me health-wise and personality-wise that it was like looking in the mirror every time we had our visits. We just happened to have different colored skin, but our hearts, fears, loves, and passions were so aligned. I was the one her son called while the nurses were "pounding on mama's chest" and I was the one weeping in my parents' backyard looking to the heavens begging God "please don't take her, she's not ready. Please don't take her, she's not ready. Please, please, please Lord don't take her yet." As I attended her funeral, it was like I was attending my own. I still think of her so very often.
So yes, dear reader, I can agree that most of the time I choose not to live in fear.
I have a "crappy" (it's my blog and I will almost-cuss if I want to) autoimmune disease that makes me feel lousy some days and fine other days. I take mouthfuls of medicine twice a day and my Humira costs could house a small family (thank you Aetna for your coverage).
Occasionally, I "fear" not ever seeing my 2 youngest sons graduate high school or college. I "fear" never meeting my grandchildren, and sometimes I "fear" my precious boys having to take care of dear old Mom. I'm afraid I won't get to tell them everything I want them to know about me, about love, about God, about marriage, about friendship, about what truly matters, and about how to navigate the good days and the bad days. How to forgive, how to keep moving forward, and how to love themselves. Honestly, I think it is part of why I felt this huge push to write. They don't read my words now, but they might one day.
But as for not trying to stay alive?
I will disagree with every hair on my head, bone in my body, and adjective in my razor-sharp vocabulary on that friend. I AM TRYING EVERY SECOND OF EVERY DAY TO STAY ALIVE.
And I stand witness and hold space for every other person I have cared for during my career in nursing and medicine who were all and are all still trying to do the same.
I learned a new term today during a visit to Little Havana in Miami. It was made for the patriots who were anti-Castro who often became political prisoners. They were named "Plantados" - they stood planted, strong, unmoving, unwilling to step down.
I am a Plantado for life, sister who made that comment. I shall never budge on that. I am here, showing up, every single day- trying to stay alive. I welcome my fellow Lifers. Let us make this world a little better each day. 🌎
Please help support my fellow Hope*Writers
by reading their work 🥰
Does Fear Have a Place in the Life of a Christian? By Regina Marcazzo-Skarka
Living Fearless By Sharla Hallett
I ain't afraid: Reflections on turning 50 By Jessica Weaver
When Hidden Fear Creeps Out By Dianne Vielhuber
How to Help Kids with Anxiety and Fear By Ashley Olivine