I’d written this awhile back for “Chicken Soup for the Soul.” I’d written it in response to the popular saying (by many of the Christian persuasion, of which I am) that everything happens for a reason, which I do not believe. Sometimes things just happen. And in those instances, we can choose to find meaning in what happened, or make something meaningful come out of the experience.
Taking an ethics/philosophy class has made me think a little more deeply about abstract things, but that’s what higher learning is supposed to do–make you think, not tell you what to think or how to think.
Now here is my story, though few stories are truly ours, and ours alone to tell. Sometimes, we just happen to be the messengers.
It was 1981, the year of my birth, when my parents were robbed at gunpoint. They were managers of a cinema in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, and two men they fired had broken in. The whole episode must’ve had an effect on me in utero, for as a baby, whenever a light was turned on, I’d hold up my hands like I was part of a stick-up.
I literally dodged the bullet on that one.
When we were living in Rota, Spain, I contracted spinal meningitis at the age of six, losing all hearing in my left ear. When my mother was told by the doctor that most children die within 24 hours without treatment (I’d had it for three days before being diagnosed), I realize how lucky I was, and I wonder why me, instead of why not me? That is a question to which I haven’t sought an answer, thinking perhaps someday, the answer will come to me.
It wouldn’t be until years later that another medical miracle would occur in my family.
It was in February, a few years ago now, that my dad got real sick.
The first hospital he went to, he was told to go home and take a Motrin. He did so, but he only got worse.
He then went to our family doctor, who saw how ill he was. She called an ambulance for him, and he was taken to a second hospital. They kept him for a couple of days, then released him in a wheelchair, too weak to walk on his own, because they needed the bed.
My brother and I had a conversation with him during his stay that he doesn’t recall (which we found eerie), though he did remember a black minister coming to his room and telling him he was going to be all right.
A nurse, who showed up at our house the next day to check on him, told us to take him back to the hospital immediately. So we called another ambulance, where he was taken to yet a different hospital. Dad was diagnosed with pneumonia and a lung infection, including a blood clot on his lung. For five days, he was put into an induced coma in ICU.
Had that nurse not come, Dad would’ve surely died.
Dad’s near-death experience changed our lives in profound, and not so profound ways. He told our family dentist that he knew he was better because we were all mean to him again. My mom, dealing with the stress of not having enough money coming in, quit smoking just like that, and hasn’t smoked a cigarette since. I do believe we all become closer when these things happen, but then the awe and wonder that we have lived to love another day fades and life goes on again.
One can only guess why some things happen. I wanted to go into the military, but my handicap prevented that. Why did my dad have to get so sick, when it wasn’t his time to go? Maybe his getting sick, which led my mom to quit smoking prevented her from getting lung cancer in the future. Maybe my not getting into the Navy kept me from dying too soon.
We will never know.
I’m not one of those people who believes everything happens for a reason, but I do believe we can either find something good to come out of the chaotic events in our lives, or make something good come from them.