Friday, March 6, 2015

I choose Life...

I came face-to-face yesterday with another miracle…..by the name of Diane.  Diane is one of our Facebook group members and, although I knew “OF” her and prayed for her for many months, I did not have the privilege of meeting her until yesterday.  Diane’s mother, Margaret, works with me at the college. Diane lives in Florida and last August she as involved in a freak, but VERY SERIOUS, accident involving an elephant. She was severely injured, spent several months in the hospital, and underwent somewhere around 18 surgeries.  She nearly lost her life and a full recovery looked bleak.  But yesterday, she and her mother, came into my office so that I could meet this remarkable woman.  WOW!  What an incredible lady!

In the course of the conversation, Diane mentioned that her accident changed her life completely. It didn’t take me long to look into her eyes and realize that the change she was talking about….although very real….did not involve the physical signs of the trauma or the scars on her body…it was the internal change of mindset.  Because she nearly lost it, she now values the gift of life in a way that you and I probably cannot even comprehend or understand.  When I asked her why she was in Michigan, tears filled her eyes as she looked at her mother (age 75) and she said that she wants to spend as much time as possible with the people that she loves….before it is too late.  I swallowed hard as  I thought of all those people in my own life that I value and love….and how many of them have gone before me. How I’d love to tell them I loved them or have a cup of coffee…..just one more time.  Makes me think about how busy I am…wonder if the things that fill my days are really ‘all that important.”

 In many ways, Diane’s accident….although horrific, painful, and senseless….enriched her life and made her a better person today.  Her faith….her sense of humor….her strength and courage….her gratitude…..all gifts that grew and manifested themselves as a result of what we, at first perceived as a horrible tragedy.  Trust me… I am not trying to make light of her suffering….it was absolutely awful, not only for Diane, but for all those who loved her and recovery will take a life-time.  If she had a choice in the matter, undoubtedly, the events of that day would have been different; much different.  After all, who sets out in the morning thinking, “Hey, wouldn’t it be fun today to be picked up by an elephant’s trunk and slammed unconscious back and forth against a cage repeatedly, breaking bones and crushing ribs?”  She nearly died….and yet….she didn’t….and now, perhaps for the first time…she truly LIVES. Remarkable….simply remarkable.

My conversation with Diane has been on my mind all day and I’ve been pondering her words and  their meaning.  What can I learn….what is God showing me…..how can we all be helped by her experience…..how can I be strengthened on my journey because I had the privilege of meeting her?   So many things….so many thought are swirling in  my spirit….and ironically….NONE of them have to do with diet or addiction…..but they all have to do with LIFE….and change……and gratitude.

The morning of Diane’s accident, she had packed a suitcase and said goodbye to her husband and children because she was planning on taking a trip to Michigan to surprise her parents.  She was going to accompany a friend who was transporting an elephant to Michigan for some sort of appearance somewhere.  While waiting for her friend to get ready, she was brutally attacked by another elephant and a short time after saying goodbye to her family, she was in the intensive care unit of a hospital fighting for her life.  Her goodbye that morning could have very easily been the final words she spoke to those she loved……but they weren’t…..because GOD intervened and had another plan for her life.

Immediately I thought about my young cousin, Bridget, who died in an auto accident a little over a year ago. I thought about my friend and neighbor, Robert Humphrey, (his birthday would be next week), who died suddenly a few weeks before Bridget when he was on his way home from a family vacation. I thought about my own mother who died suddenly at the age of 54 when I was in my 20’s (Goodness, wouldn’t she be over the moon that her “first-born, self-proclaimed ‘never gonna get married’” kid is engaged?).  I thought about my friend Carol Tilley, who went through a horrific surgery last week to amputate her leg, and now faces extensive physical therapy.  I thought about YOU…and ME….and each person who has reached out to me to share his/her story of despair, addiction, depression, and/or obesity.  Each of these situations….although unique….have taught me to value the gift of life and to appreciate all that I have been entrusted with.  My friends…regardless of what our life circumstances….the weight of the cross we are asked to bear (or in many cases…CHOOSE….to bear)…..the  road we must travel, regardless and in spite of it all……we must remember that when we are blessed with the gift of a new day…..we have MUCH To be grateful for!!!!! 

We never really know the REASONS why we sometimes have to struggle. We never really understand WHY things have to be so hard sometimes.  We never really know WHY we can’t seem to lose weight, or give up a habit, or why we keep failing to find motivation.  We can’t comprehend why our relationships sometimes don’t work out; why our kids or friends or colleagues disappoint us; why our loved ones or even ourselves get sick and have to suffer.  I don’t have the answers. I don’t know why Diane was involved in that accident or why my loved ones died. I don’t know why I had so many losses and allowed myself to become so grossly overweight. I don’t know why it took me so long to do something about it. I don’t know why it is so hard to lose and keep weight off. I don’t know  why there is war; or famine; or sickness; or death…..but I do know that each day I am given a choice….to LIVE….or to DIE (not literally)…but die by giving up hope; choosing to be negative; choosing to be bitter; remain angry; hold on to grudges; wallow in self-pity and to HATE….my body; my life; my reality; or people. 

For far too long, I cho­­se to do NOTHING but wallow in my misery and pain. I chose to ignore my reality and my responsibility. I chose to be miserable and continue to make the choices that nearly cost me my life.  I chose darkness, because for some reason… I THOUGHT that was my fate; I THOUGHT that was the ‘hand I was dealt’; I THOUGHT that was what I deserved in life. I THOUGHT…..it would be too hard to change; that I was too weak; that life would never be any different.  BOY, oh boy…..Thanks to the incredible grace of GOD… I can freely admit, that I THOUGHT WRONG!!!!!!   

I had a choice!!  I HAVE a choice….each and every day….with each and every breath.  YOU….HAVE…..a choice too! Each of us….regardless of our circumstances…regardless of our “scars”….regardless of our size, our addictions, our past failures, our reality….EACH OF US….is given the opportunity each day to choose gratitude or despair; to choose joy or despair; to choose trust or doubt.  Our endings will be different….not everyone will reach his/her goal; not everyone will ­­avoid sickness….or even death….not everyone will have the ‘happy ending” or outcome that we THINK WE WANT….but when we surrender our thoughts, lives, and bodies to God completely, we will end up EXACTLY where we are supposed to be.  People like Diane remind me that life is precious and our lives can change in the blink of an eye.  IT makes me ask myself….”THERESA……what have you done today…to make someone’s life better?  What have you done today….to show God that you are grateful for the gift of another day?  What have you done today to leave an impression on someone so that if I were to draw my last breath today, someone would feel that loss?”  These questions make me go….HMMM…….and cause me to think twice about the choices I make and the actions I take. They make me choose wisely about the food I choose to eat as well because I want to be as healthy as can for as long as I can so that I can continue to rejoice in the life I have been given.

As I go about my day today…and in the coming days… I will think of Diane…and ask  myself…..  “Is the food I eat today going to strengthen my body so that I can continue to LIVE the life that GOD has given me?  Are the thoughts I am thinking going to help me be a kinder, more loving person…or are they selfish, bitter, hateful, or envious?  Am I looking for the GOOD in all things and being grateful for the blessings in my life….or am I wallowing in the misery, pain, and worthlessness of my reality?  And mostly…am I doing what I need to do to be the best person I can be today?   Today….like Diane….like Carol Tilly…..like so many of you that cross my path… I CHOOSE to fight the fight; do what it takes; value those I love; and be GRATEFUL.  What do you choose????