There are so many things in life we take for granted — beginning with the gift of life itself. In general, I’m one of those folks who doesn’t like the idea of “taking things for granted”. I believe I’m grateful and appreciative of what I have, thank you very much. However, God has a mysterious way of teaching us the error in our ways.
In 2006, when my husband and I were expecting our youngest child, something completely unexpected happened. It was almost Thanksgiving and, since the new baby was due at Christmas time, my husband and I had decided to make Thanksgiving even more special than usual for our three older children. I had spent weeks researching and planning the perfect Thanksgiving meal, and had even developed a day by day and hour by hour schedule of when everything should be done, to ensure no aspect of our family celebrations was left to chance.
In the meantime, I also had a heavy schedule at work, including an active recruitment for a key position that had to be filled in my office prior to my maternity leave. On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I left the office at around 10 a.m. for a quick check up with my OB/GYN, knowing that I needed to be back in an hour to conduct an interview.
Everything started normally enough. My husband kindly accompanied me to the doctor’s appointment, giving us a few moments to catch up in the waiting room prior to the seeing the doctor. Then, as usual, the nurse called me back to take my vital signs. I had known the nurse in charge since I was in high school and we were joking around, chatting and sharing Thanksgiving plans, when she turned white as a sheet.
I immediately knew something was wrong; but, I had no earthly idea what it could be. Nonetheless, I remained calm until the nurse cheerfully announced I would be checking into the hospital momentarily. I laughed and told her that wouldn’t be possible because not only hadn’t I packed I bag, I had an important appointment at the office in 30 minutes.
The doctor then intervened, explaining patiently that I would need to check into the hospital immediately. I insisted, however, that I must go to my meeting and complete the Thanksgiving preparations first. Couldn’t this wait a few hours? The answer was a firm “no”.
From there, the trajectory was all downhill. I had developed a life-threatening case of pre-eclampsia–which had recently killed a younger colleague of mine–and it was likely that neither the baby nor I would live.
Naturally, nobody told me all of this immediately; but, nonetheless, I could feel the life-force slipping away. As I looked at my beautiful children when my husband brought them to the hospital on Thanksgiving, I knew it might be the last time I saw them. I remember thinking (with gratitude) that they were in good hands with their loving (and beloved) father and that they would be all right…no matter what.
However, by the next morning, when the nurses practically insisted I have a priest present for the emergency C-section, something in my consciousness had shifted. I refused to die and I would not admit that my (as yet) unborn son would die either. Having a religious person present, to me, would have felt like an admission of defeat, and I had decided we would both live.
My husband, having been fully briefed, was scared to death. However, he gracefully accepted my stubborn decision and hoped for the best.
When my son was born, he weighed less than 1 kilogram. He was so tiny that I was not even permitted to touch him or see him before he was whisked away to the neo natal intensive care unit (NICU). However, I did (thankfully) hear him defy everyone’s expectations by screaming–loud and clear. His birth was only the beginning of a long fight for survival, involving numerous specialists and over a month in the NICU.
However, thankfully, my tiny son has not only survived, he has thrived. We have been in Africa since just before his first birthday and, not only has he never had a serious illness, but he is laughing loudly as I write this piece.
Since that fateful Thanksgiving of 2006, our family is a little more grateful. We have all understood that life is fragile, not to be depended upon as a birthright, but something to be thankful for, in and of itself. I have understood that we all take some things for granted, and we shouldn’t.
I share this story with you today in the hope that it may encourage you to hug your loved ones a little more closely and enjoy every moment you have together. Appreciate, and be thankful, for the gift of life you have been given and the ability to share another holiday and, perhaps, another year with those you love. We never know what is coming next and life itself is a gift worth being thankful for.