Normally June is filled with celebrations of birthdays for two children, three different grandchildren, and remembering John’s brothers. Even if we are not with them, we buy gifts, try to mail cards, and make calls. Last month, the month of June began with special dinners with special people. June also brought a scheduled endoscopy and colonoscopy for John, where we learned a cat scan was being set up for John to acquire more information. On Monday, June 7th, John and I had a routine eye exam. And “It” began. There was a surgery on June 10th and a death on June 11th.
A few days before the appointment, John noticed one eye was having a problem, but there was a scheduled appointment to see both of us in only a few days. When Dr. Mendel walked into the examination room to check on my eyes, I said, “Dr. Mendel, I hope you are taking care of John’s eyes. He needs to be able to drive at night because I no longer can.” Dr. Mendel: “Susanne, I was going to wait to tell you, but John has a bad eye. He has a hole in one eye. I have just set him up to see a specialist. As soon as you get out of this chair, you need to take him to Edmond to the doctor for the emergency appointment I just made.” I was stunned! My thoughts consisted of “Why had we not insisted on John seeing Dr. Mendel when we casually stopped by and upped our appointment by a few days? Why didn’t we tell the receptionist what John was experiencing with his eye? Then I switched to mad at Dr. Mendel and John for not telling me there was a problem six months ago after his last appointment. Why was Dr. Mendel not checking more often on the problem Dr. Mendel noticed at that time?” You know, it is always easier to blame someone else.
I canceled my afternoon plans, and off we went. On this challenge of quickly driving to the specialist’s office in Edmond, I thought about some of the stages of change I taught in every seminar on change! First, I was shocked when John told me a problem he was having with one eye but was more shocked when Dr. Mendel told me there was a hole! (so first, shock) Then I apparently denied (next, denial) to myself a serious situation we were facing. Dr. Mendel told me the problem. My attitude changed. I became angry (anger with others and with Self) with myself for not paying attention to what John said the previous week about a problem with his eye. He did not seem worried, so I did not worry. We arrived at the office in Edmond. The receptionist was waiting for our arrival. However, the doctor was with another patient. We had a seat and waited. I was totally disgusted with myself for not insisting John pull into Dr. Mendel’s office the previous week and tell him his sight was diminishing. So now I had not only blaming Dr. Mendel and John but also myself (blame). It is also easy for self-pity to set in and perhaps depression. (next one might have self-pity or depression). Or one can begin to focus on actions to move forward and make the best of every day even though they’re in pain. It is good to allow time for grief which I did not do when my first husband died. However, when people go through “it,” many never get past the stage of self-pity and anger. Next, behavior improves (attitude changes) as we begin to think rationally about our situation and create a plan for ourselves. With a look within Self at the situation, we begin to use new knowledge, understanding, and skills to accept where we are at present (acceptance).
Yes, I was sitting in a doctor’s office thinking about all of the stages we go through when faced with the challenge of change. While waiting, I also thought about when my first husband, Don, died and how long it took for me to move through the stages between the doctor in Mayo telling us that he had cancer and then six months later, death. It took time to let go, accept it, and heal. Death, divorce, any life-changing accident or event, or maybe even losing sight in one eye can bring about change. The time it takes for each person to move through the stages is different for everyone. After Don died, I ran away from my life, thinking that would relieve some of my feeling of “not fitting” and the pain of loss within. I made some big mistakes. Hold onto faith that you can and will move through this. Hold onto that trust and belief that tomorrow will be better and life will eventually become better.
The doctor called us in. By the end of the meeting with the doctor, we gained a plan, a scheduled surgery for Thursday, the 10th of June. Due to my inability to see at night and having to leave at 4:00 a.m. for the surgery, a fantastic friend drove us to Edmond so that John could acquire his surgery. After surgery, we received follow-up instructions. John was to lie on his stomach for three days with his head facing the floor. Also, he was to return the following day for a follow-up. We understood that John could not drive. I was now to be the appointed driver until he could hopefully see again with his bad eye. Well, we got home about 2 o’clock. All went well until 5 a.m. the next morning when our sister-in-law telephoned and yelled into the phone, “John, you and Susanne get over here. I need you. Pearce is dead.” Who was Pearce? He was John’s older brother. John had literally jumped out of bed when the phone rang, answered it. As he sat the phone down, he immediately ran downstairs, telling me not to bother getting dressed. We arrived at their house, which, by the way, is not far from us. There were many police cars, an ambulance, and unmarked cars. The home was filled with police, EMTs, and others. Martha was in shock. John stood and visited with the police and others that he knew from being a Judge. Another friend, that is more like family, offered to drive John to his follow-up appointment for his eye surgery. I needed to remain with Martha. Did John keep his head down? No. So from the time of Pearce’s death, John did not do anything he was supposed to do. Thus, they might have to redo the surgery if it had been ruined. By the grace of God, he was still alright. Al helped John, and I was able to stay with Martha and help her digest what just happened unexpectedly to Pearce and to her!
Needless to say, June was not turning out to be a normal June. We had two “it’s,” one right after the other. When difficult situations arise in our life, change takes place. Sometimes we choose to change our priorities, and then there are times when we are forced to have a huge change in life. We need to remember that all is being put in divine order in every situation we are in! To keep going, it is good to keep our eyes on “small miracles” that take place. Sometimes our lives are turned upside down, and we do not understand; however, when we look back a few years later, we can see all we learned from what we went through and the positives brought forth. Many times our compassion for others is increased, and empathy is gained.
When “it” arrives in life, know it is normal to go through these stages and grieve for our old way of life. However, get up and know each day is a new day. Watch for those small miracles that arrive unexpectedly to you to help you through. It may be as simple as a smile someone has for you as you pass by, a telephone call that you needed, or a cloud passing overhead that is shaped like an Angel. Know that there is a divine plan for you, and you will see what God has planned for you next when it arrives. It takes time.
We will not know if John’s eyes are okay with all he did after the death of Pearce, nor do I know how long I will need to be John’s driver. What I do know is that I changed my priorities with all of this happening. I changed commitments that I had made from “yes” to “no.” I did not do my blog for several weeks. And I may still be a little sporadic because now we are learning some of our children and grandchildren will be coming and going the rest of the summer. Always remember that relationships are more important than “things.” Love is the answer.
LESSON: DIfficult lessons of change teach us to look within. We might gain the opportunity to change our perspectives about life. What we learn will perhaps show us that it is time to let go of a belief that no longer is working in our life or that there is help out there we can call upon when we need it.
GIFTS: After the death of Don, I was still helping everyone else and found myself two years later married to a great teacher. I then began stepping back and learned how to help myself. First, I got counseling. Then I began studying codependency and attended Ali-Anon. I finally began taking care of myself. I had literally lost “Self” following Don’s death. The study of Self brought new answers and a kinder me. I was kinder to myself as well as others.
I learned to build on lessons in the past to not move to the dark side of life again. I wanted my light to shine brighter than it had ever shined as I moved forward in life. My life lightened!
I taught other people how to flow rather than fight the stream of life. A difficult time is a great time to practice flowing. I practiced.
I attempted to be “like the bird that sings when the dawn is still dark” every day! Some days I failed at this but took care of my Self on those days.
I was single ten years and then I met someone I love dearly that brought a new experience to me. We have a peaceful, wonderful marriage that I would not have had if those difficult times had not forced me to my knees and made me get to work on my Self!!! So I love the negative in my life as much as my positive in life! My prayer every morning is to turn whatever appears negative into a positive!