I got schooled on yesterday to just how blessed my life is. Douglas and I drove to my hometown, which is about an hour and a half away. I went to reconnect with friends and family, two of whom I had not seen in over thirty years.
So often we take our physical and mental health for granted, so we fail to appreciate just how blessed we are that we still have a modicum of good health. While my ailments are not insignificant, in comparison to others, I am doing very good.
For example, I visited a dear cousin whom I had thought of as a second sister when we were children. I didn’t know that she had Alzheimer’s, so the transition from a vibrant, active, loud, bossy person to nearly a child stunned me. When she saw me, she took my hand and held it, staring into my face. I hugged her, but she was uncomfortable with it.
In her room, she showed me a tree she had made out of construction paper and glue, just like a little child proud of their work, and I admired it, along with her brother, who had taken us to visit her. I wanted to cry, but realized that maybe I was feeling sorry for myself rather than for her.
I took her hand in mine, trying to reconnect with the person she used to be, the person I wanted and needed her to be. She never smiled the whole visit, which was so unusual for her.
When Douglas and I were in our car alone, I asked him if it was wrong for me to be glad that I was not one of the residents, and he responded, “No.” I did not mean that I was glad that the misfortune was theirs and not mine, because I would not wish the condition on anyone. But, as someone over the age of 60, I worry about a time when I cannot take care of myself, and just being in a locked facility magnified those fears.
Then we visited a pair of my old friends. Both have a lot of physical illnesses, with one on dialysis three days a week and the other taking cancer medications that will prolong her life but not cure the cancer that has returned. As I sat with each of them, they commented on how good I looked, which, for me, translated into how healthy I was.
I felt strange, wondering if what I felt was like survivor’ s guilt, the phenomenon that occurs when two people experience the same tragedy, but one dies and the other lives. I realized that I felt bad that I had my health and strength, waltzing from one home to another.
As we drove down I-24 to home, I was quiet. I prayed for all of the people we visited, and I thanked God for the blessings in my life. To be able to get up each day and walk four or five miles on a treadmill or on a path, to be free to go wherever I want with no restrictions, and to have a loving husband demonstrate the grace and mercy of God.
These are not benefits earned from being so good or better than others. They are gifts of God’s unfailing love for us flawed people. Ephesians 4:8-9 states, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”
As you can see, each visit yesterday profoundly reminded me that sometimes we forget just how blessed we are. I plan to try not to take people or circumstances for granted, becoming more intentional in visiting my friends here and at home. It is so easy to become focused on self and our plans and to forget just how fortunate we are.