Friday, July 27, 2012

Whoosh of Memories

Taken by Me at the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland

I’ve been sick since last Friday, which is truly an unusual thing for me – I’m one healthy horse.  So this morning I finally headed to the doctor.  She didn’t take five minutes with her stethoscope to diagnose pneumonia.  Then she went on to explain that pneumonia was collection of bacteria that had taken up residence in the crevice of my lung and it’s good that I came in because those pesky critters tend to spread.  Then she ran down the list of party treats I get to take home: antibiotics, codeine cough suppressant, and prednisone. That’s what started the memory avalanche.

When Maggie and I took our trip to Ireland, while stand there, overlooking the Cliffs of Moher, it started – her little cough.  We didn’t know it then, but that little cough was the signal that our days together were running very low.

Back in Austin, CT scans showed the culprit.  Little tumors had taken up residence in her lungs and were spreading.  This was a battle that there were no weapons to fight. So the doctors gave us codeine cough suppressant to try to minimize her discomfort and prednisone to try to cut down the irritation. And then they gave her just a few weeks to live.

I hadn’t thought about those days or the month and a half that followed in quite some time.  Those were hard days for us both.  But today, as I coughed uncontrollably, I found myself sad, like I was getting to experience life a little bit from her side of the bed, even if it was just a laughably small taste. But I also felt an unexpected warmth, or maybe even a feeling of compassion. Because of today, I feel like I understand her a little bit more. And, because of that, I’ve changed.  It sounds odd, but it feels real.

It’s interesting how still to this day things can happen that give me more insight and perspective on what has happened.  Just this experience of a week spent coughing up a lung has further enriched my memories, if that’s even possible.

I truly wonder how many new experiences I’ve yet to have that will continue to enrich both my new life and the precious memories of my old life. I still have a great life to live.


  1. yes! Their illness can make us more compassionate.
    Whenever I see someone with a cane or in a wheelchair now I always look right into their eyes and smile or say hello.
    My husband went from being completely active and fit to disabled from a brain surgery. Overnight he couldn't walk.
    I remember his monumental struggle to gain back some control on his body. Not everyone is born disabled.
    Some have it happen to them in an instant.
    Now I look and think "what happened to you?" and I feel a huge wave of compassion. I remember when he once pointed to a man getting out of his car and he said "I used to do that. Just step out of the car".
    Such small things but so big. His illness and death has changed me forever. Now I think _ please just let me have the years I can and I will take care of my body the best I can. When it changes I know I will have to adapt.
    Thanks for the reminder. Also the pic of Ireland. We had travelled there together. Beautiful.
    I hope you are well soon.

  2. Is pneumonia going around Texas?! Geez I just got diagnosed with it on Monday and have never ever been this sick. I thought it was only something elderly people got, but maybe it's a widows sickness too :(

    1. Are you in Texas? After I told the doctor that I never, ever get sick, the doctor told me that things like this really raise her eyebrow because many of her patients the last couple weeks have said the same thing. And many of those have had pneumonia. Odd indeed. She also said that most of them have been in the 35-50 year old range. Yuck.

      I'll agree; this is certainly unpleasant, especially the coughing. Get well soon.

    2. Yes, I am in San Marcos, just moved here from Nevada after I lost my husband last October. It has definitely been a big change (the climate). I told my doctor the same thing - after all I'm only 43, how the heck could I have pneumonia when I never get sick. Maybe it's all the mold in the air? Have never coughed so much in my life! My friends say the grief makes us more susceptible - who knows?

      Hope you get better soon too!

  3. It seems that when we suffer death from an illness...our focus and attention to those particular symptoms become acute. The suffering we watched our loved one go through can't be removed from our memories. When those symptoms crop up without asking for them...we become "experts" and either use the flight or fight syndrome to suppress them. Are we better off with the knowledge of our experience behind us and look for symptoms of good health and well-being? It sure has helped me! But still...when I feel a trembling in my lip or a twitch in my finger, I worry that it's my turn for Parkinson's and brain cancer! Then I realize that my mind wants to make me fear something that I fought and beat off, and it's not was him.

    Yes, we get more compassionate for others.....but we really should get more compassionate for ourselves and look for health and well-being. Take those meds and get better! Because you aren't done yet with this life and can only make it better.

  4. I really needed the last line of this post. Because I really don't "feel" that I have a great life to live" - even though it is the truth - my heart is so broken. But I WANT to feel that. I LONG for the day when the wound is not as raw, the absence not so great. Thanks for the inspiration!

  5. Hi Chris,
    I understand what your are saying. I didn't realize until he died how sick he was...I was told by his doctor that they didn't expect him to die. I know now that he was sicker then he ever let on and it is one of my biggest regrets that I just didn't see it. I never interferred with his treatment. I tried to nag him to get the doctors to send him elsewhere for treatment but he always said they will send me if they think its important... they so failed him and my family. I wish I could turn back the clock and I would go after all the doctors, guns blazing. But unfortunately, that's not possible. I do wish for the day that I don't dislike my life(I have kids so I can't go to the extreme of saying I hate my life). But I wonder every day, how, without him, I will ever love life again.