|With my BFF, Arleen, Santa Fe NM 2005|
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
God, Love, and Jose Cuervo
Over the course of the last two years, I’ve spent many hours pondering one particular issue: Why am I still here? Why did I live? If I happen to verbalize this cosmic conundrum (while in the company of my good friend Jose Cuervo, for instance) anyone within earshot usually tells me there’s a simple answer.
“God has a plan for you, Susan.”
Hmmm. Now that’s a loaded statement, isn’t it? In order for me to go there, I have to believe in God. Plus, I have to believe that the supreme power of every-freakin'-thing took time out of his/her hectic schedule to be concerned about little ole me, one of the approximately seven billion severely flawed and struggling human beings currently alive on this planet, which is only one of an infinite number of similar planets that might exist in this infinite universe.
This is usually when I order that second margarita.
But now’s not the time to debate the existence of God. There will be plenty of time to sort that out in future blogs. Right now, I’d like to touch on the thing I know saved me from death. It’s something I am certain exists and might even be another name for “God” – and that is LOVE.
Before I share my “oh-shit-I’m-headed-for-the-tunnel-of-white-light” story, I want to define that word. Yes, I write about “love” in my books. I write stories about romantic love between one man and one woman, but those love stories never unfold in a vacuum. All my romance stories take place within a greater context. I often explore the dynamics of love between friends. Or parents and children. Siblings. Pet owners and pets. Sometimes I even sneak in something about compassion for strangers, empathy for the human condition in general, and a sense of connectedness to all living beings and the natural world.
So when I talk about “love” in this blog, which I will do a lot, I’m referring to any or all of those things. I’ll do my best to keep it all straight for you.
The point is, I’m still alive because love saved me.
In what I now know was the first couple touch-and-go weeks of my hospitalization, I experienced something strange and wonderful. In the depths of my consciousness, I saw death coming to fetch me. Death looked like a shadow of soot seeping around the edges of my inner light. I acknowledged the ominous shape. I told it I knew it was there and I knew exactly what it was. Then I told that motherfucker to hit the road.
Suddenly, a fierce rush of love and goodness pushed the cloud away. I felt it. I saw it. And I am convinced that force was not just my own determination to live. It was the power being generated by the medical personnel who worked frantically to save me, along with the hundreds of people who prayed for me, thought of me, and asked God to spare my life.
Once the dark cloud disappeared, I didn’t fear its return. I continued to feel protected, and knew death wouldn’t dare come back for me anytime soon, because it wasn’t my time to go.
Love is that powerful.
This parade of love and goodness had a drum majorette, my best friend of twenty years, Arleen. She was with me every moment of this disaster. She kept an email journal during my illness, which she sent to an army of friends and family. Arleen chronicled events with writing so heartfelt it puts most of us “pros” to shame. Because she rarely left my side, this is her story as much as it is mine. In fact, for the first three months of my illness, it was her minute-by-minute burden to carry. Along with my brother, my ex-husband, and my son, Arleen became a “health care agent” who could make medical decisions on my behalf. She also paid my bills, washed my hair, and plucked my eyebrows. She laughed with me when there was very little to laugh about.
Here is an example from her journal:
Yesterday, as we all crowded in Susan’s room, I was privileged to witness a magical moment. Susan, in a very clear and eloquent manner, told all that she had an amazing life, full of love, creativity, and joy, and that she wanted to go back to that life. She said she wanted to start her journey to wellness and knew that meant amputating her leg. Susan said, “I don’t care what I look like on the outside, and frankly, I don’t think anyone else gives a shit, either!”
She knew she was so much more than a leg. The amazing, brave, joyous, gentle, creative, and kind spirit that is Susan will remain.
We all signed the consent form. It was done. Yet, even at that defining moment, Susan had us laughing, and put all at ease. I left Susan with joy because I knew her heart and spirit remained intact, and will only become stronger. I told her how brave she was, and she asked me to remind her of that when she breaks down in frustration. Susan has no delusions, and when she needs me to I will cry with her, pick her up, and push her on. It’s what we’ve done for each other a thousand times!
Arleen has done all of that and much, much more over the last two years. I guess that's the problem with becoming love personified -- it's a big job.