I have been meaning to post this for a while. The unfolding events of last night concerning the Boston Marathon brought my thoughts to the forefront. I am being assisted by @welshwallace. She is an inspiration and a person I admire immensely.
Last week I went to visit my mother who is currently in hospital. Very weak and frail and certainly not the mother I remember although my love for her knows no bounds. Whilst in the ward I gazed across the other beds in the room. All very sick people. One bed in particular caught my attention. An elderly woman in her eighties crying at the pain she was in. Her equally elderly husband also in his eighties tried his best to adjust her position in her bed. He wasn’t coping. I had to assist. I thought to myself “Please God don’t let me end this way.” Life is for living right? Not to slowly die without any quality of life. Not only quality of life for the sick but also for those caring for them.
I asked myself some hard questions. How do we cope? How do we get through life changing events? How do we carry on?
The cadets at West Point military academy were made to write their own obituaries before they went off to war. An eye opener for them and grounding in reality. Life is finite and it was intended to make them think about themselves and their lives. What ever we do eventually will come to an end. The only question we have to ask is whether we go out on our feet or on our knee’s.
So how do people, faced with unimaginable tragedy, loss and grief carry on? Sadly we don’t know how strong we can be until we have to. Equally sad is that we only seem to be at our best as human beings when things are at their worst.
As a family liaison officer I deal with people at their lowest ebb. They amaze me with the dignity and measured strength at the news of the loss of those closest to them. I am constantly humbled.
So why do we carry on when life throws its worst? I suspect we carry on because the alternative is far worse. As creatures born to live then death is the end game, not an event to suffer slowly. An event that changes our lives makes us realize that.
Who wants to live to a hundred? That person who is ninety nine.
My Lovely friend Welsh wallace opines. She gave her all and as a result pretty much sacrificed her all………….
Why do we carry on? I have two answers but they are separated by time.
Ask me a couple of years ago why did I carry on despite loosing my sight and my other injuries, I would have said – because I do not have a choice. I do not have the guts to commit suicide. That was my only alternative. The physical pain i could deal with. Learning to walk, lungs burning when I breath were bearable but mentally dealing with never seeing again was my daily battle. That was the bitch who would not leave me alone for a single moment.
Ask me now, a few years later, where medically things have not changed. I am still learning to walk. I still have lungs that don’t work so need oxygen now and again and I am still blind yet my answer is different. Because I love my life and despite everything i have never been happier. I know to some that will seem strange but it is true.
It hasn’t been easy to get to the place I am in now but I got there. I went through anger and grief and resentment to those who could see. They said I had to go through “mourning” for loosing my sight and it took me to hell and back. I took solice in my pain killers to escape but over time where I started to accept it, I started to enjoy life again. I started to enjoy life through my new eyes (or lack of them) and started to realise no matter what I was still here, I was still alive and the thoughts of “the other choice” disappeared.
Now I love my “after life”. That’s what I call it. I have shut the door on my “before life” where i could see. To me it doesn’t exist. I never talk about it or mention it. This is me now, in my “after life” without sight and since I learnt that trick, everything has taken on a new meaning. I also have had a serious wake up call a couple of years ago. The damage to my heart and lungs is quite bad. They can fail at any moment and the realisation that this can happen was the kick up the backside I needed to get out of the wallowing I was living in, regarding my sight loss as it made me realise i did not want to give up as i still had a lot going for me.
I have the constant reminder of the emergency medical alarm I have to wear 24/7 halfway up my forearm which I call my Doomsday button. If I press that, it turns my house into “Thunderbirds Are Go” and it felt weird knowing I was always being watched by the internal CCTVs around the house, more not to walk around naked and give the guys who watch these things all day traumatic stress of my naked body but it allows me to live a normal life on my own and I forget they are there. But i am not telling you this for sympathy. I’m telling you this because I want you to understand despite everything i couldn’t be happier.
The work I now do helping others with their sight loss gives me so much reward. I would not be as good as I am if I had not walked in their shoes. To tell someone that things do get better and they know I mean it makes a huge difference than someone who only knows this from books because you can never comprehend what that person is really going through by books alone. I seriously think now that things happen for a reason. We may not know that when it happens but it does. I have had major organisations change rules and training towards people with sight loss so many others now benefit. The RSPCA wouldn’t allow blind people to adopt freely before until i stuck my nose in a few years ago and completely re-wrote their manual and training. I use what has happened to me to now make a difference to others in similar shoes but do not have the voice.
I don’t think of when i could see because that’s living in the past. I now only live in the present, blind. It has also brought me back to my first love of art and now the thought of waking up in the morning, making a hot coffee and going to work in my studio professionally makes me feel like my life is now perfect. But if someone had said this to me years ago, my response would not have been gracious. Now …….. and I genuinely mean this………. I wouldn’t change anything for the world. I hear things and smell things I have never experienced before. And I also appreciate things because i now know how easy you can loose them. Losing my arm was not a big deal to me as it is probably only a third as traumatic as losing my sight so I have treated that no more serious than having a tooth removed. I have greater perspective on what is important and if things go wrong they will sort themselves out (most of the time)
So yes, my answer is completely different than it was a few years ago. Now when people annoy the hell out of me saying how they feel sorry for me or pity me, it is I who pities them because they have no idea what they are missing out on. The old adage “you don’t know what you got until it is gone” is so true but what it doesn’t say is once you have lost it you make sure you never take anything for granted again and you drink up every moment afterwards so you never miss out on anything again.
Life is what YOU make it. It is up to you if you want to let it pass you by or you can live everyday as if it is your last. To some of us that more true than others.