[Written while still in "Transitional Care," shortly before being released to go home]
I never thought of myself as having another life. As living my own life, different from other lives “out there,” or in other professions, or in other parts of the country. I suppose the closest I came was my dream, as a boy, and a very young man, of wanting to be a cowboy. Of loving horses, and taking riding lessons, and owning cowboy hats (and later, Africa “bush” hats). But, I soon knew the cowboy’s life wouldn’t be for me – even though I loved to read their stories, and in my imagination, ride along with them.
Until I got in the hospital these last many weeks, and found that the army of tough nurses, and insistent therapists were assuming I belonged to them until I was discharged. That they had free access to my room, and me, appearing at my door at all hours of the day, if not the night, already armed with something to thrust into my mouth (like crushed pills sunk in applesauce, pushed into my mouth on an impatient spoon), of a needle to stick in my arm, or a blood pressure cuff to wrap around my bicep, right or left, or a ready urinal for me to use in their overseeing presence at the side of my bed.
They came, unannounced, ordered me into a wheelchair, or later a walker, to march to the gym 160 steps down the hall – there to pedal a fake bicycle up to eight minutes, or to pass a large rubber ball around the room between several other unsuspecting patients, or to play an unfamiliar board game, or even descend to BINGO.
The games, I realized, were not pointless, nor the exercises. And, they were offered with generally good cheer. In fact, I soon realized that my participation and involvement were my ticket to discharge.
I needed to move my muscles. Indeed, my mind as well, in the board games. And, I came to have a quiet and acknowledged friendship – unspoken, but received – with my compatriots, inasmuch as we were all trying to grow stronger, if not smarter.
Indeed, as the days went on, these people from another world, became curiously, my friends. Even the tough Liberians, with their African traditions, came to have a twinkle in the eyes – even when I was resisting them. And, as they discovered I loved Africa, and had spent 30 years going back and forth to Africa, to help first with East Africa’s famine, and later, with the devastation and horror of Rwanda’s Genocide, they found me a comrade, if not a countryman, and knew that I cared about them, and their countries.
While the nurses were tough, they knew their stuff, and did their jobs, and the therapists let me know that the exercises and routines would make me better, stronger, if I took them seriously.
They even seemed to take pleasure in the fact that I was being sent home on my 92nd birthday. They seemed glad for my life.
But it took cogitation and reflection, and considerable repentance in the darkness of my room alone at night, to realize how arrogant it was of me to declare, particularly to the experts, “You know, I have a life of my own, apart from these exercises and games, that I am trying to live and achieve. I have a website, and an assistant. I write blogs – about life and values. I’m trying to do that work, even while I’m here.”
How inappropriately proud that was on my part, and how grateful I should be that they cared, and continued to help me.
It’s easy to think that one’s own tasks and goals, are the important ones, and be blind to the multiple ways people of the world help us – even in our own goals. And that we should BE GRATEFUL.
I am now. I hope I have learned some humility from these young people, that will make me wiser, and more kindly, and not think of myself as the most important thing in the world.
When I went to apologize, the last day, to one of the nurses, for my behavior, she was full of forgiveness and understanding and assured me she understood.
My life, after all, includes the hospital, the weakness, and the role of those who were there to save my life and help me live. One of my daughters, on seeing me when I first entered the hospital, confessed she felt from the way I looked, that she might never see me again. So many loved, and were pulling – and praying – for me.
We need to see all the caring people around us and thank them, and thank God, and cultivate the humble heart God has given us. My “other life"? All this world, and every day, are my whole life. I’m trying to learn.
Arthur A Rouner, Jr -
|Arthur Rouner Ministries||
ARTHUR ROUNER MINISTRIES