Dying · Family · Life · life lessons

Memento Mori

I shouldn’t be here. I should have expired on that recovery room table six years ago when I suffered a “catastrophic” event. I lost too much blood for any human being to survive. My heart tried twice in a desperate attempt to give up the ghost. Yet, I’m still here. I shook the cold hand of death and said, “Not today.”

Every year when May rolls around, I get reflective. I go through the story again, and I remember. I recall the fuzzy images of my boys after they were born. I hear the doctor going through the series of events that led to my coma. Something I didn’t even know I was in, I thought I just fell asleep. I listen to them tell me the list of things that I will never be able to do again or not as well as I did before. I watch the video in my head of the doctors and nurses who worked on me sit at my bedside and weep because I am their miracle. I shouldn’t be here and yet, I am.

The fact that I am still here took on an even greater meaning for me when I learned that on the same day at the same hospital, another woman died giving birth to twins. I watched from my hospital bed as her spouse carried their girls home in their matching pink car seats. I wondered why just about every day. Every time I looked down at the scar that covers three-quarters of my abdomen, I remember.

I have a love/hate affair with my scar, but I refuse to get it fixed. It’s a necessary evil that I must carry with me. It’s the least that I can do. It used to be a painful reminder that I would never be complete again. It represented everything that I had lost and would never have. Now, when I see my scar, it reminds in times when my resolve falters, how strong I am. It reminds me to be grateful for the gift of life. It reminds me to live.

In the six years, that have passed. I’d like to say that I’ve come to terms with it all. In some ways I have. I’ve made my peace with the fact that a woman that I never knew, our only connection, our twins with the same birthday, will never get to know her babies. I’ve purged myself of the guilt of living. But every Memorial Day weekend, I remember.

Memorial Day, for me, used to be the unofficial start of summer, a weekend for barbecues and parties. I didn’t lay wreaths; I didn’t remember our servicemen and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice to secure our freedom and the freedoms of others around the world. I’ll be honest; I thought about when I was going to eat and where. I was selfish, and I lived a selfish life. I learned more about myself and others when I almost died than I learned my entire thirty years prior and it was simple. All lives are important, they all matter to someone, somewhere.

What happened to me had to mean something. It didn’t have to be profound. I’m not going out and rebuilding villages, but I can be a gift to everyone I meet. I can make an impact in someone’s life today and every day even if it’s as simple as telling a stranger they look nice today. I didn’t get a second chance to sit on the sidelines too afraid to do anything. My scar reminds me every day to take a chance, what’s the worst that could happen, I die. Been there, done that.

This Memorial Day as you sit around with your family and friends (hopefully you’re eating well because that’s important too) remember death but most importantly, don’t forget to live and to live boldly, it’s the least that you can do.

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5 thoughts on “Memento Mori

  1. Ohhhh wow, Michelle. That’s quite some story, and what wonderful learning you’ve taken from it. I love that line that all lives matter to someone, somewhere. I hope and wish that were true 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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