Time is How You Spend Your Love
So that she could more comfortably sleep, the cardiac intensive care room was darkened, and only those lights spilling in from the nurses’ station outside of it illuminated the room. Yeah, and the glow from the multitude of monitors, measuring more vital signs than I could even begin to understand. More than a dozen IV’s and tubes pumped fluids in and out of her still, heavily-sedated body, the beeping machines a constant presence in the periphery of my hearing. The six-hour surgery was over, a monumental relief. The recovery just beginning, would be months-long and uncomfortable before healing relief would be felt.
It’s been nearly six weeks now. So far, the two new heart valves that were replaced were working as they should. Aortic and mitral. One pig and one cow valve are now giving her renewed life.
In the weeks leading up to the day of her surgery, she gave me tutorials on paying the bills in case she wasn’t able to care for them as she recovered. I wondered if I could remember it all. She is remarkably organized; I took copious notes. We doubled-checked bank and credit card passwords, notified people we need to tell, and packed her living will and durable medical power of attorney, quietly hoping not to need them.
In pre-surgical visits we were told by the medical teams that the surgery was “high risk”. Repeatedly. Hearing it once would have been enough. We heard it loudly and clearly the first time. Hearing it again and again – while we understand they needed us to know there could be complications and increased possibility of a stroke or heart attack during and following the surgery – only heightened our anxiety. And it forced us to have quiet and unwelcome discussions about the “what if’s” …
What if … something didn’t go as it was supposed to? What if … she didn’t survive the surgery? What if, as she feared it could be, … January 29th was the last day of her life? What if …? The mind morphs to the deepest, darkest places at times such as these.
She feared, perhaps most of all, that if the “what if’s” came true, our five young grandchildren wouldn’t remember her. Having lost both her grandmothers before she was born, she never knew them. So, wanting our grandchildren to know her is vital to her. She wants to be a significant presence in their lives for a much longer time.
At the beginning of each year, it has become a tradition for our Someone To Tell It To team members, to each choose a word to “live by” for the year. “Time” is my word this year.
Time is finite for all of us. There never seems to be enough. But with the time I have, I want to use it well. I want to balance my time better, a constant challenge. I want the time I work to be stimulating and meaningful. I want the time I relax to be rejuvenating and restorative. I want to spend more time asleep. I want to spend more time laughing. I want to spend less time being anxious. I want to have more peaceable time. I want the time I have to not be squandered or wasted or spent brooding. I want my time to reflect light and hope and joy. I want all of my time to be filled with love.
Six weeks ago, I spent my time beside my wife Kathy as she faced the most frightening and risky week of her life, of our lives together. I spent it waiting and watching and wondering how the “high risk” would pay off. I’ve spent my time since then navigating – with the support of so many others – Kathy’s recovery and the changes it brings to our lives.
“Time is how you spend your love”, wrote the British author Zadie Smith. I haven’t yet perfected my time like I wish I could. There’s been not enough sleep, not enough balance, not enough relaxation, not enough laughter, not enough peace.
But there has been enough light, enough hope, enough joy. And certainly, absolutely, enough love to carry us through.
With love, there is no better way, no other way, to spend our time.