For a few weeks now, my husband’s family has been suffering through some rough times. His 16-year-old nephew is in a coma, the result of previously undiagnosed diabetes. Right now it looks pretty bad, as there is at least partial (and most likely, severe) brain damage. We’re playing the waiting game right now to see just how extensive that damage is, to see if he’s ever going to really recover. To see not only if he’s going to wake up, but how much of the boy we know and love is going to be there if he does.
I have to admit, I don’t like bringing up this subject here. I feel like there are certain things that are off-limits as far as blog fodder is concerned, and for the past few weeks my husband’s nephew has been top on that list. I’ve known this boy since before he was born. I changed his diaper, pushed him on the swingset, held my breath as he and his siblings and my kids raced their bikes -way too fast – down the dirt road they live on, kicking up a choking trail of rocks and dust behind them. I even scolded him once years ago when he used my son’s bookcase as a ladder. (“I wanted to see what the room looked like from up there.”)
It’s difficult for me to comprehend that this active, curious boy is probably gone forever. And if I’m having a hard time dealing with it…God, I do not even want to fathom the emotions his parents are enduring.
And that’s why I decided to bring the subject up over here after all. Because I’ve spent the past few weeks in constant (even verbal) gratitude for the physical and mental well-being of my own children. I feel like cataloguing their every word, their every move, their every moment. I don’t want it to slip by. I don’t want to forget any of it. I don’t want to take even a second of that time for granted.
I felt this exact same way a little over a year ago when a close friend of mine lost her son. I spent a month of nights awake outside my kids’ rooms, listening to their breathing, vowing never again to raise my voice at them in frustration. To let the little things go. To remember their every word, their every move, their every moment. Just like I want to do now.
And then, of course, things settled down for us. We slipped back into our routine. And it’s so easy to take the fact of their happiness and health, and even their existence, for granted. Even while my friend still suffers daily from the loss of her son. And I shudder to think I might do it again, while in a hospital room forty miles away a 16-year-old boy’s parents look at his every blink or twitch, wondering if he’s really there…or if it’s the random spasm of a part of his brain that doesn’t know it’s time to let go.
We’ve just passed through that time of year when people take stock of all the good things they’ve got, especially their family and friends, and strive to be thankful for all of it. But it doesn’t take long to forget. By the time the turkey carcass has been taken care of, most of us have already begun to slip back into that normal routine. To start taking it all for granted again. So just, please, just hold onto the Thankful part of Thanksgiving a little longer this year. Appreciate the hell out of all of the people you’ve got around you right now who you couldn’t live without. Really, really just hold onto every moment you’ve got with them. Think about how much you love them, think about it all the time. And don’t forget to say it out loud.
And every now and then, climb up on something (something steadier than a bookcase) and see what the world looks like from up there.