Friday, February 1, 2008
It Takes a Village to Heal
It has been snowing here for 5 days. It usually snows enough once or twice a winter for us to build a few snowmen and sled a bit, but it's usually gone in a few days. We got 12 inches last Sunday, and even with the rain yesterday, it's still here. Last year, the snow wasn't much fun for me.
This time last year, I was being prepped for surgery. I slipped and fell on the ice in front of my neighbor's house and broke my wrist. The x-rays revealed a rare type of bone tumor which had weakened the bone and ultimately caused the break, and one year ago today I had that tumor removed, and my left distal radius rebuilt.
I've been thinking a lot about what life was like for me one year ago. I came home from surgery in pretty bad shape. My mom had spent over a week with us before surgery, and completely took over for me. I was in pain and pretty much worthless. I had friends staying with me around the clock for 7 days post-surgery because I was unable to care for myself or for my children. Friends cooked and cleaned for me for weeks afterwards. Heidi was up all night with me one night when I was so sick, I couldn't even make it to the bathroom by myself. My friend Mary even came over one day to help me fill out the mountains of insurance paperwork I just couldn't seem to do on my own. Beth came over and scrubbed my toilets. Maud played with my kids. Khaliqa slept on my floor so I could leave at 4am for the hospital without waking the kids. Gabriella made CDs for me to calm me down and to listen to during surgery. Katie drove my kids everywhere. Jodi flew in from another state to be with me at the hospital. Lucinda spent the night and cared for me, even with a migraine. Ruby brought movies and cherry flavored lip balm. Cara brought my kids their favorite meal. Carrie looked in on me constantly, and countless others showed up in various ways. It was a humbling experience, for sure. I really, really needed help. And I got it.
The thing about it, for me, though, was that I literally had no other choice. I could not do it alone. I had to ask for help. In the past, I had often been the one to help others. I was the one cooking meals or watching my friends' kids. It was much more comfortable being the giver. There were moments, last year, when I was sick and tired of being so needy. My kids were sick of it, as well. I just wanted to be able to be a mom and an adult and take care of myself.
Eventually, of course, my arm healed and I no longer needed to be medicated, and slowly but surely, I got well. In the meantime, I felt so amazing grateful. I felt like the luckiest person in the world, to be surrounded by so many loving and generous people. When I worried that my kids would be scarred for life by my surgery, my worthlessness as a caregiver, and the strange metal contraption sticking out of my arm, my friends reminded me that I was giving them something else instead. I was teaching them what real friendship looks like. That friends show up. Friends do for us, when we can't do for ourselves. Friends cook, clean, care for our children, and sit with us throughout our most intense pain. Friends are there when we need them most. What a gift.