Friday, October 25, 2013

Chicken Noodle Soup

There is nothing that will make you feel quite as tiny and insignificant in the universe as when you are completely alone in a room, choking. 

Nothing drives home the very smallness and randomness of your purpose here on Earth, than almost being taken out by some chicken noodle soup.

Yup. You heard me. You read that correctly. On Monday, October 21st, this week, I almost died. For real. I was very, very close to choking so badly, that I could no longer speak, breathe, or function. Very, very close. 

It all began innocently enough. I was sitting here in my home office, where I am right this minute, where I do all of my many writing assignments and projects. I'm in the middle of writing a book about my husband, and our love story, and the brutal and often hilarious truths about grief. In addition to that, I also write a monthly humor article for Modern Widows Club Magazine, and I write weekly funny TV reviews of shows like Dancing With the Stars for an entertainment and pop culture site called poptimal. Then, of course, I write here at Widows Voice, and I write in my own personal blog too, which is what I was doing on Monday when I almost died. 

So there I was. A widow, writing one of her many widow-related assignments in the middle of the day, just an hour before leaving for the city for my weekly grief-counseling session. I was just getting over the flu or a really terrible cold, so I had picked up this really yummy chicken noodle soup they have at a nearby deli on my block. Their soup is very good, as Ive had it before, and I wanted something to soothe my throat as my appetite hadn't fully returned yet. So there I sat - sipping my soup and writing my widow words - when suddenly, instantly, shockingly - something extremely sharp and painful got stuck in the exact middle of my throat. 

I felt my face flush red as I pushed back from my chair at lightning speed. Somehow, I thought the object may be far enough back that I could finish swallowing it, so I grabbed a water bottle from the fridge and drank fast, trying like hell to get it down. It remained in the worst part of my throat possible, and it was soooo sharp. It felt like there was a needle or a thin piece of wood splint inside my throat. My insides made scary noises and I gasped for air as I leaned forward over my kitchen counter, trying to recall the lessons that my paramedic husband had given me on how to give myself the Heimlich Maneuvre if I ever needed to. Why didnt I listen??? What did he say??? How do I save myself??? Somehow, I panicked and took action at the exact same time, not having a clue what I was doing or why. My eyes watered and I coughed and coughed and coughed, and then continued to try and push the foreign object out of me, hoping and begging and praying that it would shoot out of my person like some animated alien, emerging out of the dark. 

You know, it is absolutely stunning how many billions of unrelated, disconnected, anxious thoughts can go through one's brain, while simultaneously choking and gasping for air. As I struggled to stay alive over my kitchen sink, this was my ridiculous inner-monologue: 

This is it. Im dying today. This is how it all ends. Just like my poor husband. Collapsing. Alone. Where are my kitties? When did I feed them? Oh shit, they need water in their bowl. Where is my phone? I have to call 911. But I cant speak. There is a glass window inside my throat. That is what it feels like. It feels like an ice-pick. WHAT THE HELL IS IN MY THROAT??? Oh my god, where is my phone? Is it even charged? I dont think its charged. I really should keep it charged. Im going to die right here on this hard kitchen floor. Its dirty. I cant die on a dirty floor. It will be hours before my roommate returns and finds me. Hours. I wonder how she will get my share of the rent next month if Im dead. This is so embarassing. I was eating soup. What the hell did they put in my soup? WHO CHOKES ON SOUP??? I can just see the headline in tomorrows local newspapers: "Widow Chokes and Dies While Writing Widow Blog." Ironic, isnt it? Alannis Morissette would have a field day with this one. Oh who am I kidding? This wont make the NEWSPAPER. Who am I? Im nobody. Im not famous. Wow this is a really long time to be choking. I really think Im dying. This is the end. Shit! I havent even finished my book! I really wanted to see this week's episode of NASHVILLE on my DVR. Dammit! This is really what it was all about? Soup? What is the point of all this? You try and live a life and have goals and dreams, and in the end, you can just disappear in a nano-second, because of soup. What the hell is in this....... 

And just like that, it was over. My gasping and choking and coughing and watery eyes had started to calm down. The last big cough had catapulted the enemy right into the sink, and the enemy was a goddamn bay leaf. Not a big juicy chewy steak or some rubbery calamari, or even some grains of rice. Nope. Not me. This widow almost gets taken out by a friggin' bay leaf. 

I gathered my things and headed into the city to see my counselor, and when I got to her, I asked her to please make me some tea to help soothe my throat, and then I told her my story. I then proceeded to sob for almost the entire session while talking to her. Sobbing about being a few days away from my "would have been" 7 year wedding anniversary. Sobbing about leftover feelings of guilt and regret at the last weeks and months of my husband's life. Sobbing because life is so goddamn fragile, and because I still cannot comprehend that my husband left for work one morning, and never came home. Just like my family wouldn't have been able to comprehend me being taken out by a bay leaf.  

I did learn something though. Something very big. While I was choking on that bay leaf - inside all of those other disconnected thoughts that were going on inside my brain - one thought repeated itself over and over and over, like a chorus: I don't want to die. I don't want to die. I don't want to die ..... 

A lot of times, after we lose the person we thought we would spend our life with, there are many days and nights and hours, that we just dont feel like living. There have been so many times when I thought to myself: "Wouldnt it just be easier if I could just sleep and not feel this horrible pain?" I didnt want to actively end my life. I would never have done that. But I didnt feel like being alive either. 

However, when you are choking on a bay leaf, and you cant speak words and your face is bright red and you're scared you will lose consciousness, one thing goes through your heart and then travels to your mind and your soul: 

I dont want to die. I want to live. 

There is no way that my life ends at the prickly hands of a bay leaf. 
It ain't happening. 
Try again. 

Actually, please don't. 
Cuz that was really pretty scary. 


  1. Wow - what powerful writing! Thank you for sharing - what a scary thing to happen, and a very moving message.

  2. I had the SAME revelation once but it wasn't when I choked. It was after realizing I may have taken two meds that shouldn't be taken together. I was afraid to go to sleep the whole night and realized that, oh my god, I don't want to die. Which means, oh my god, I want to continue to live THIS life. This one without him. There better be a PRETTY AMAZING reason to keep going. Shit.

    1. I had the same revelation last week when I was having chest pains and I finally scared myself into going to the ER. And it was a shocking one. Because there have been so many times in the past three-plus years since I lost my husband that I felt/said/thought "I don't want to live without him." But when I was faced with the actual possibility, it was like "As much as I hate my life, I'm not ready to die yet."

      Which puts me in a hell of a conundrum.

      It wasn't a heart attack - four hours in the ER, numerous tests, a follow-up with a cardiologist, and $2K in out-of-pocket costs later confirmed that my heart is fine (aside from being shattered). So it's probably stress.

  3. Great blog but very scary! Heard bay leafs were very dangerous for choking reasons. Glad you are still with us to continue writing!

  4. I hope you have some strong words for the deli that sold you the soup (once you feel up to it that is). Bay leaves should be removed, and counted, at the end of cooking before the food is served. Not only can they cause throat damage, as you learned, but intestinal damage as well. I'm glad your ok, what a scary experience. Love your writing by the way.

  5. Actually, you probably have the makings of a lawsuit. The previous comment is totally correct. I once started to choke on a bay leaf I had put into a homemade stew. Afterward, I learned that they are to be removed before serving, as stated in the previous comment.

  6. I know that guys. Im a cook, I know they are supposed to be removed. I just didnt put that in the blog because I didnt want it to be any longer than it already was. Im going to write them a letter and just let them know what happened. They are a mom and pop diner down the street, very good people. Im not going to sue them, Im just not that kind of person. But they need to know to be more aware of the bay leaves and make sure they get removed.

  7. I'm on day 3 or 4 of surviving Hurricane Harvey and I choked on a bay leaf tonight. I am my family's rock, and I went into a blind panic. I thought it was a chicken bone. I thought even if we call 9-1-1, they can't get to me and they can't get me to a hospital. I was so scared. I had that collage of thoughts you described. I loved this write up. I was searching for medicinal treatments for my poor torn up throat, and I'm a little worried about swelling. I'm so glad I stumbled across this.
    Wishing you all good things.

  8. How very frightening, Theresa. I hope your throat heals quickly and the waters recede. Prayers for you and all those who are surviving the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Be safe.

    I'm grateful you came across our old Widow's Voice blog site when you needed it. We've moved our blogs over to the Soaring Spirits web site: