On Monday evening, as a I celebrated my Birthday with family and friends, a good friend asked me what lesson God taught me over this last year of life. After taking a moment to think, I responded:
I Need to Slow Down and Enjoy God and the People in My Life More Fully
Later that night, after getting home, with the family all snug in bed, I read the following email from my dear friend Anastasia. Why she chose to share this “God” experience with me was clear the moment I got to the end.
A few weeks ago, I received a call at 3 AM from the Emergency Room (E.R.).
E.R. Resident: Hey! Sorry to bug you. We have a new consult for you. He is one of us actually; he works in the Emergency Department as a technician. Today before lunch, he started feeling foggy and just didn’t feel right. He came down to the E.R. We think he’s okay but want you guys to see him before we clear him to go.
Me: Okay. What’s his exam like? What was his glucose?
ER Resident: Normal and normal.
Me: Okay, I’ll be there soon.
Starting to walk over to the E.R. in a haze after having already done 9 consults that night – 2 of which were a total waste of time and energy as they were not neurological patients – I entered the loud, busy, beeping, buzzing room full of every ungodly noise that could possibly be heard at 3 in the morning when I found Frank’s room.
Me: Hi, I’m Anastasia the neurology resident. They’ve asked me to come by and examine you. How are you feeling?
Fred: I’m actually better now. You know I have been so stressed out lately and feel like this was a good reminder to slow me down!
As he continued, he shared about about a merger that is going on between our hospital and another hospital that is making his job as shift manager increasingly difficult. He expressed how he had too much salt in his food and was feeling so stressed that he now thinks he suffered from an anxiety attack. Struggling to keep my eyes open, I intended to ask him straight forward questions, skip the small friendly talk, evaluate him, so I could finish and get back to bed.
Fred: I can’t tell you how much I’ve needed to slow down lately. You know, I should have died 10 years ago. I had pancreatic cancer and a procedure done. There was an unbelievable amount of complications and I was always in pain. I was on so many pain meds I felt like I wasn’t living, just existing between periods of discomfort. Could you imagine? Every single week I had a neighbor in the bed next to me die. Then when I finally got out of the hospital, I was walking down the street when somehow my hepatic artery burst open and blood was pouring out of me. I staggered back into the hospital, collapsing on the floor face down. I heard the nurse say that I died. After going into cardiac arrest and failing resuscitation, they said I was gone…But, I wasn’t dead. And I heard everything they said. At that moment, I felt I had a bright light behind me. I couldn’t see who or what it was, but I remember it telling me I had a choice: to live or die.
After taking a moment to take a breath, that felt like an eternity, he continued.
Fred: I chose death. I was tired. I wanted to be away from sadness, pain, bills and worry. But then the image of my two sons, ages 3 and 6 at the time, came before me. I saw snapshots of how they would grow up without me, angry that I promised not to leave them. I saw my wife with another man. I felt a surge of jealousy even though I had no right to. I realized how broken my family would be without me there and how selfish I was to want to let go and leave. I replied to the light “your will be done” and I felt a surge of indescribable complete and encompassing love.
— he began to cry —
Fred: And I came back. Opening my eyes, surrounded by people, the nurse looked at me and said “well we missed you.” I said “you won’t believe me if I told you what I went through.” She said “I’ve been doing this for 30 years; there’s not much I wouldn’t believe” I realized after, this (pointing around him) isn’t real at all. It’s the fact that we are all pieces that fit with one another and that every life has its purpose and every action its consequence. It all matters. The most important thing is to have faith. Faith in him. Look at my last name…I wasn’t a Christian before. I was Jewish! In fact, I think I ended up in here to meet you.
–And thats when I (Anastasia) started to cry–
Sometimes you lose patience, empathy, love, and faith when life seems to only consist of deadlines and goals. That man reminded me of the joy and love that Christ is and that He brings. How often people fall apart when things go wrong and how little reserve they have when controversy arises. God sent me a friend that night in the ER and as a result I spent the rest of that busy shift seeing patients with a smile on my face and a feeling of fullness and love in my heart.
I have no doubt this was God’s way of making sure I knew the lesson that I shared with my friend at dinner was not some nice catch phrase to pass on to her but was something I personally needed to own and live.
Deadlines & Goals, Projects & Events, Emails & Work, will always be there.
If I want to more fully Enjoy Him and the People in My Life More, I need to train myself to Slow Down!
Psalm 90:10 Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.