An Early Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving came early for me and my family this year. You see this past Thursday, on October 31st, my mom had a heart attack. It feels strange to type that or say it out loud. She had a heart. attack.

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Visiting in the hospital (I’m showing them pictures from Lia’s class’ Halloween event from earlier that day).

She’s fine now, thank God. And I mean that very literally. THANK GOD. It was a stress induced heart attack, so it wasn’t caused by any blockages (they did an angiogram that afternoon and found none). She’s back home, and has to take it easy for the next couple of weeks. Did you know there’s areas of the heart that can regenerate itself?! The damage on her heart caused by the attack is in such an area so in two weeks it should be gone – no permanent damage! PRAISE THE LORD!!!

If you’re going to have a heart attack, apparently this is the type to have. I still recommend NOT having a heart attack if you can avoid it . . .

And there’s SO MUCH to be thankful for. Not just that she’s okay, not just that there aren’t any blockages or permanent damage, but also the timing of it, and the people who were like angels to her throughout this, most especially a very very special nurse, Michelle.

It truly is amazing how things turn out when you put it in God’s hands.

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When the ambulance arrived I told the paramedics we wanted her to go to Tulane Lakeside’s ER, but that wasn’t possible (no cath lab). We wanted her to go to Tulane’s ER downtown. That wasn’t possible either. We could’ve gotten mad or upset but instead we remembered that we are not in control, but God isHe’s got this.

How comforting is that?! Don’t get me wrong, it’s not easy by any means. But when you stop and really think about it, it is comforting.

If we would’ve gotten our way, my mom wouldn’t have been in the care of Michelle, an amazing nurse in the CCU (Critical Care Unit). Her, along with a gentleman (doctor? nurse? not sure) who was in the cath lab for the angiogram, brought my mom so much comfort and peace that she very much needed. My mom gets very nervous with medical procedures and such. I will forever be grateful to them for that.

And the fact that it happened the day before I was set to leave with my husband and kids for my husband’s half iron man triathlon, I mean, that’s divine intervention! Or actually, more like divine planning. All the scary parts happened Thursday. That was the ONLY reason I was comfortable leaving Friday. Not only that, but I was still able to make it to my daughter’s Halloween class celebration on Thursday (I got there very late, but the point is, I made it). And when I walked in the door and Lia saw me, she came running to me and exclaimed “Mami! Mami! You’re here! I knew you weren’t not gonna come!” Thank you, thank you dear Lord, for letting me be there. 

 

AND, it was Halloween night, but with the events of that day, our original plans of going uptown in New Orleans went out the window. I was not up for trekking down there, and it was COLD and crazy windy! We’re not big fans of Halloween in general, so imagine my reluctance after experiencing the day I had.

But Lia really wanted to trick-or-treat. Can’t really blame her, she’s only 5. What were we going to do? I had nothing. No plans. No ideas. Our neighborhood is pretty dead on Halloween night.

Another angel. Two, actually.

One of my closest friends, who had been checking in on me and my mom throughout the day, told me of her plans – to go to another friend’s house who was having a party and trick-or-treating in her neighborhood. This other friend is also a friend of mine, but we don’t know each other quite as well (they have kids in the same class, so they see each other more often). But she knew that this friend wouldn’t mind us crashing tagging along. (I guess she’s like me, subscribing to “the more the merrier” philosophy, thank goodness!)

So we left our house pretty late, fearing the worst, that we had already missed the trick-or-treating, envisioning disappointed children, dreading the meltdowns . . . you get the idea.

And yet . . . we pull into the neighborhood, take a guess as to which direction they would be walking, and what do we see? Our group! Right in front of us! We parked right there and started trick-or-treating! PLUS, my son, who hadn’t been looking forward to Halloween in general, got to see friends he hadn’t seen since May! He became so happy and started enjoying the night. We had a wonderful time! What could’ve been an awful end to a tragic day was instead an amazing end to an emotion-filled day.

Gratitude. Immense gratitude.

***

As for my mom’s heart attack, as much as it was a relief finding out that it wasn’t caused by a blockage, it’s been kind of difficult to come to terms with the fact that it was stress induced. That means my mom’s emotions and thoughts and reactions to situations caused her body to have a heart attack.

If there was ever any doubt that your mind has a profound, direct effect on your physical state, this puts it to rest!

I admit, I knew the mind was powerful, but going through this with my mom, witnessing this, seeing the effects, it just takes it to a whole other level.

Years ago, actually 2 years ago, my therapist showed me a quote from a book she was reading. I took a picture of it:

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Note that it’s an MD saying this. A medical doctor. Obviously a “woke” one, because I hate to admit it, but the vast majority of conventionally trained physicians disregard the mind/body connection (and the gut/brain connection!) and simply resort to their prescription pads to “treat” their patients. I digress . . .

But as I think over recent events, I find myself being drawn to this quote again.

My mom had had an argument with someone. That’s what caused her heart attack! Obviously, the stress had been mounting for months, it’s not like she was completely fine and all of a sudden one event sent her body into overdrive. I had actually noticed it for the past several months, her intense upset over things (mainly the state of world governments, the Catholic church, y’know, no biggie). I had talked to her about it to no avail. But still. That’s what it came down to? An argument?! You really think we, her family, could give a sh*t about that man she was arguing with? Can you imagine if we had lost her forever because of this?!

IT’S NOT WORTH IT.

Yes, it’s good to have convictions. It’s good to speak up. It’s good to seek truth. It’s good to shine light to the darkness.

I actually firmly believe it’s not just good, but it’s our duty. God calls us to be and do those things.

But that does not mean literally making ourselves sick with worry, frustration, or fear.

That’s where having faith comes in.

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Yes, we need to do our part, but at some point, we have to give it up to God. The whole point of our existence is to realize that we are nothing without God. We can’t do it ourselves. That’s okay. We’re not supposed to.

Easier said than done, I get it! My mom and I are wired the same way. I’m as much saying this to myself as to anyone else. It’s HARD. We have such strong convictions and a strong sense of justice that when we see what’s wrong in the world and witness the people who are supposed to do right stand by and do nothing, or realize those same people are actually working against God, well, it becomes almost unbearable. Really.

I don’t believe in horoscopes, but I do find it fitting that I’m a Libra . . .

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Statue of Themis, the goddess of justice and law, aka Lady Justice. She is holding the scales of justice which is the symbol for the astrological sign Libra.

But going back to managing emotions, I’ve had to not read things, not look at things, because I don’t handle it well. One time, I was in the waiting room at a doctor’s office minding my own business, casually flipping through a magazine. I came across the story of the nanny in New York who killed the children in her care. I don’t watch the news. I didn’t know. Yet there it was in black and white, the words on the pages staring back at me. I started crying so vehemently I couldn’t catch my breath. I had to step out and I called my mom. She helped me calm down.

Healthy boundaries.

We have to figure out what that means for each of us.

In the meantime, I’m a whirlwind of emotions, trying to process what happened, what could have happened, and all the other things it brought up . . . as I was standing there in the ER next to her, I felt like it was a sneak peek into the future, of what’s to come . . . not that she’ll die from heart issues, but just that, she will die, one day . . . and having the roles reversed, where the child takes care of the parent, and you see the parent become like a child, nervous and scared, and you find yourself shielding them from information and situations so as not to worry them further . . . it was all . . . different . . . unpleasant . . .

***

And I’m well aware that it’s “easy” for me to sit here and write about having faith, and all that feel-good stuff, when we got a good outcome. I get that. I wrestle with guilt – guilt that others didn’t get the outcome they wanted; guilt that I struggle with the little I have to deal with (compared to some); mom guilt, etc. I think of my friend who’s father was killed in a car accident, or a mother whose son drowned in a freak flooding, or my aunt and uncle who lost their daughter.  It is very present in my mind that so many families don’t get the result they wanted. 

Then what?

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Life here on earth ends. That’s the reality we face. But is that it?

No, there’s more. As a Catholic I hold onto the promises He made us. I’ve got to. Sometimes it’s the only thing I have. The best is yet to come.

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