Friday, November 25, 2016

Painful Gratitude

Thanksgiving turned into one lousy day.

We got our conflict that drives home the meaning of gratitude.

We had a kitchen accident that sent one of us to the hospital with second degree burns.

Yes, we were grateful it wasn't third degree burns. We were grateful the two toddlers were taking naps and weren't underfoot when the handle on the giant pot broke. We were grateful for the health providers who worked the holiday. Grateful for the nurse back in Chicago who answered our immediate questions. Grateful for healthcare...

We got the grateful part, but what I had forgotten is how painful it is in the midst of that kind of gratitude.

I was so grateful when the day finally ended, and I could try to forget the day's tragedy. It worked for the first half of the night, but in the lonely, wee, morning hours, I relived the moment over and over again.

I was dumbfounded and helpless as I watched the boiling stock fall out of my daughter's arms and burn her hands and arm--helpless as I watched her slip, bounce, and hit her head. Dumbfounded and helpless as I watched her jump into the sink screaming, "I'm burning." Over and again, I replayed the incident.

An hour after the incident, after she and her husband had arrived at the hospital, we sat down to eat. But the food was without taste and it just wasn't the same without her. Eating while in shock is perfunctory-without pleasure.

She kept in touch with us. She let us know when the IV was in. Let us know when they scrubbed the blistered skin. She even laughed when she was finished and waiting in her Dad's big blue robe. Five months away from officially being a Registered Dietician, she knew what she needed to teach her students from her accident, and she knew enough to write, I've gained a lot of empathy for potential future patients. This is typical [pain] for burns. 

As the night continued, her pain intensified and she knew there wasn't a whole lot to stop it. My mom turned to me and said, "Don't you wish you could take her pain upon yourself?" Mom then recalled an incident with my older sister in which she would have suffered herself rather than take the wounds to her mother's heart.

I knew my mother's wish was impossible and I knew my own weaknesses, and so I answered honestly, "I'm too big of a wimp to take on someone's pain."

As the night wore on, as my daughter's pain intensified, as I thought of her days ahead, of the little people she still needed to care for, of her internship obligations, I made a shift. I came to the realization--if I could, I would take the pain. Gladly. I had found a place heretofore undiscovered. I let my mother know I could do it, even wished it was possible. Sincerely, even though I knew it was unlikely, even impossible.

"You've had your glimpse of a mother's unconditional and pure love."

For which I am grateful, even when it is so painful amidst that kind of gratitude.