Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The Gift of Life by Jaye Lewis

One of the most difficult aspects of being a senior diabetic is stabilizing my diabetes. I can’t help but ask myself, which combination of medicines will maintain equilibrium, to help me control my glucose. Which combination will make me sicker, as Byetta did, especially with that whole vomit factor? It’s a delicate balance. I remain very aware that not all my medicines were especially made to go together.

For instance, I have high blood pressure, so I’m on a very effective blood pressure medication, Benecar HCT 40-12.5. This drug, which lowers my blood pressure, includes a mild diuretic that also reduces water weight gain, creating a delicate balance in my system. The down side is that I must intake more salt than I find palatable. This stimulates thirst, and thirst for a diabetic is an unpleasant experience.

Another question I have is which medicine, or combination, destroyed my sense of smell? And my sense of taste is fading also. I miss tasting food. A lot. I miss the smell. And I really miss the anticipation before I take that first bite.

I’m also on Coreg CR, a time-release beta blocker, which controls my heart arrhythmia problem, caused by my asthma drugs. My diabetes drugs are Januvia in the morning with breakfast, and Glumetza in the evening with supper. This does a pretty good job of control, while still allowing me enough blood sugar to get on my treadmill and walk for a mile, without feeling faint.

Coreg and Benecar, together, can be a great blessing. My blood pressure goes down to the level I was at in high school, and my heart-rate remains constant. But there can be a downside. If I do not take in enough salt, my blood pressure can plunge to dangerously low levels. I can faint, get dizzy, groggy, and even fall asleep. The sleep episodes can feel like dying, and if my blood pressure is extremely low, well, only God knows. Very scary.

All of these medications, and a myriad of other drugs, are necessary gifts of life to me. Not only do they promise me a longer life, but they also give me quality of life. I can exercise, work at my favorite chores, particularly gardening – all of the activities that make up my humanity. In the house, I can praise God as I precariously carry a load of towels down to the laundry. I can gaze out the window, at my beautiful mountains, as I wash another plate from breakfast.

I can run on our back deck, with our little dogs. I can play with them without tiring. I can pull weeds from my garden, rake the fallen leaves, and truly put my garden to bed. With my medications and my heart and mind in balance, I can find joy in each new day.

So, in each life, there must be made room for balance. Tears and laughter, clamor and silence, beauty and the commonplace, a walk in the fresh air and reading by a cozy fire ― all these things need balance or life can be unbearable. I have lived an unbearable life, before God gave me this one. I know what it is like to stare into nothingness and believe my life was not worth living. I’m so glad I did not choose that final answer that is so prevalent at this time of year, especially for the chronically ill.

Oh, how I remember, one particular time, when ending my life seemed my only answer. I sat on a kitchen chair, by the phone, alone. I had just called a Catholic priest, a Methodist minister, and some other cleric of another faith. Each was busy. Very busy. Could I please hurry up? Give them the short version? Moving right along. I finally hung up, and I sat in that chair, watching the stairs which led up to my bedroom.

In my hand I clutched a bottle of pills. It wouldn’t take much to swallow them. Just a glass of water. Lying down, it wouldn’t take long. Then I could drift off to sleep. It didn’t matter that I was a woman of faith. It didn’t matter that I had a child who needed me. It didn’t matter that I knew that suicide was spitting in the face of God. I was at the end of my rope, and I and my problems were the most important things in my life.

Pulling the glass of water closer, I began to unscrew the cap on the bottle of pills. Then, something extraordinary took place. I don’t know if it really happened, or if it was a dream. I don’t know if I had a vision, or if I saw only in my minds eye. I only know that it was God given.

Looking at the stairs, ready to take my own life, I suddenly saw my mother moving from the kitchen to the bottom step. Her face looked like sunlight, and on her lips was a smile. She was humming, and all at once a little laugh-bubble burst forth. She was happy. Then, I saw her climb the stairs, heading straight for my room. When she entered my room, playful mischief lit up her features. Inexplicably, I saw myself lying on my bed, an empty bottle laying open on the floor.

I could see my mother’s features change, as she tickled my toes. She could feel they were very cold. Then she felt my arm, then my face. She leaned down, laying her head upon my chest, then checking my pulse, as the full realization dawned upon her features. Her little girl was dead by her own hand.

I could hear her screaming and screaming. Then racking sobs were torn from some place deep within. Sorrow. A sense of helplessness. Questions. What had she done to cause this? How had she failed me? As I lived this hopelessness and felt my mother’s anguish, I lay my face upon the table, in the palms of my hands. I could not do it. I could not bear the thought of her grief and horror.

I immediately got up from my chair. Shaking the bottle of pills and looking at it for the last time, I walked into the bathroom, opened the medicine cabinet, and I placed the pills inside. As I closed the cabinet door, I heard the back door slam. My mother had been outside all along. Chills crept up my spine and into my scalp. What had just happened?

“Come out!” my mother called. “There are birds to see and sunshine to feel. Winter is over, and spring is finally here!” I could hear the joy in her voice, a rare delight.

“In a minute, Mom!” I cried. “I’m coming right now.”

My eyes traveled heavenward, and I gave a grateful sigh, for the dream or vision or wild imagination that I had just been given. I could now deal with my mother’s depression, and I could deal with mine. Perhaps I could even be a blessing to her from time to time. As I hurried out to join my mother in her celebration of spring, I thanked God, in my heart, for the realization that I finally understood. Life itself was precious, even mine.

Forty years later, I still cannot say what happened that day. I remember the moments as they happened. I see them clearly, and I believe that God sent that event, strange though it was, for a purpose beyond what I can understand. Perhaps He sent it, so that I might now tell this story to you, to give you hope that He holds your future in the palm of His hand.

Father in heaven, grant us the grace, no matter our situation, to understand that life is your precious gift to us. Help us to celebrate each of our lives, to look for and find the miracles in the day to day. Help us to understand that we have choices. We can reach out of our own suffering and look for those chances to help others, in circumstances more troubling than our own. Perhaps we’ll see the child angels on countless Christmas trees, across our land, who have childhood needs that we can fulfill. Perhaps as we take the microscope off of our own trivialities, we will see the opportunities offered to bring joy to others. For this we pray, this season, and always.

With love,
Jaye Lewis

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