Expanding my world view


(11/21/2004)

by Frances Edstrom

My window has been my world view since I got sick back in the middle of August and became bedridden a week later.

Right now, I'm watching the rain pour off the garage roof. Big drops of water hang from the wires that run from the alley to the house. The huge spotlights at loom over Maxwell Field.

The most tenacious of the dead leaves on the maple in the back yard blow in the wind. "Hell no! I won't go!" a phrase I remember from my youth, comes to mind. Oh, to have such resolve, I think, to be able to make such a declaration, to make up your mind like that.

My body has been making up my mind for me for three months. My mind whines, "Body, can we move that leg?" It should demand "Body, move that leg!" without bothering my conscious self. That's the way it's supposed to work.

But if all goes well at the doctor's office on Tuesday, my world will change once again. I'll throw away my crutches (well, that might be bad luck, so I'll just store them in the basement). I'll drive a car (if someone will give the battery a jump). I'll walk with a cane for a while, but that's a piece of cake compared to crutches or the wheelchair. My mind will tell my body "Go!" and off we'll go.

My world view will once more be limitless. I'll sleep upstairs, send the hospital bed back to the shop. I'll be able to look out of any window I want, anytime. My old self rushed past windows without taking in the view at all, intent on getting somewhere.

There are some people who think that everything that happens to you in life happens for a reason "” to test you, to remind you, to make you better, stronger, more holy "” the list is endless.

There are others who think that a person can control everything in his life, and if something happens it's his own fault. They don't wear seat belts, for instance, because they think they are careful drivers. They think others get arthritis, cancer or other diseases because they haven't taken care of themselves. (In my experience, these people quickly abandon this view when something catastrophic happens to them.)

I think things just happen, not for a reason, and is most times not under our control. What we can control, I think, is how we deal with it. What we can do is to learn from it. "In adversity is opportunity," my father said. "Yeah, yeah," I said.

I hope I won't forget the things I have learned these last three months. Among the most precious thing is how many people, from close family to near strangers, are willing to help others in troubled times.

My husband and kids have been stellar. Thank you, God, for giving me such a loving little family. Other family and friends have been there every step of the way. My Winona Post coworkers have done my job for me, as have my fellow volunteers in a couple of organizations. Total strangers have sent cards, notes, prayers and even meals. (By the way, we still have a 9x13 blue glass baking pan without a home. Is it yours?) People are so generous it has been overwhelming. So many people saw in my adversity an opportunity for them to make a difference, to help.

My sister gave up three months of her life, 1,200 miles from home, to be my nurse and housekeeper. She just hopped in the car and drove out here! Only a year ago, she and my other two sisters nursed my brother Mike as he was dying from cancer. A little over a month later, my sister Terri died in her sleep, having lived six years with horrible neurological pain from cancer and treatments. In the blink of an eye, a family of six siblings was down to four. In our family tragedy was the opportunity for the rest of us to know and love each other more, to honor our parents, who brought us into the world and gave us each other. When I got sick, Susan (Susu to family) helped reinforce that lesson of opportunity, which I might have been too busy and bossy to miss.

Now that I'm better, Susu will be back in her little station wagon on I-90 headed east. She will leave me both enriched and diminished. Enriched by the depth of her love for me and family, diminished because she will now be out there, instead of right here.

Come to think about it, the enrichment she leaves far outweighs the emptiness I'll feel. I'll be enriched with the thoughts and memories we have shared during this time, things that I can hold in my heart for all time. And the sadness I'll feel at her departure will be erased the very next time I can talk to her on the phone.

She and the others who have helped me through this illness have helped me expand my world view. I must be careful not to rush past these new windows without reflecting upon what I can now see there.

 

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