My anniversary is Monday. When I'm feeling good about it, I call it my "rebirthday". Lots of good things came out of that day, December 5th, 2008. We had sno-cones at school to celebrate the Iditarod race that the kids had been following. We were preparing to have our family pictures taken for the church directory. I made beef stew, which is what the kids remember most. I remember going to the salon. I remember feeling anxious that evening, and thinking I was just stressed because I had a bunch of things going on. I remember going to the basement and working for a while, then coming back up, thinking I was going to vomit. I remember telling Colleen I didn't feel right, and that I'd be back in a minute.
Then the elephant entered my life.
For almost three years now, I've gone between ignoring the elephant, denying the elephant, fearing the elephant, avoiding the elephant. I've looked at other people's elephants and thought, "Wow, I'm sure glad I don't have one of THOSE!" But I do. I have a big fat elephant that tortures me. He wears a neon flashing marquis that puts up slogans for me to read. "You were dead!" "You're kids would have grown up without a MOTHER!" "You scared the HELL out of your Mother and Sister!" "Your poor worried friends!" "God, your poor HUSBAND!!" "What have you DONE!?!" This elephant wails, and roars, and points his sharp tusks at me, pressing them into my chest. Just below my left collarbone, just above my left breast I carry his scar. It is almost too much to bear.
But it's been three years.
I don't sit all day in my chair, paralyzed by the not-yet-right mix of beta blockers and anti-arrhythmics and Xanax. I don't count each and every beat of my heart any more, thinking, "Is this the last one? Is this? Maybe this?..." I don't spend each day sobbing, and praying that it never happened. That it's all just a bad dream and I'm going to wake up and have my memory intact, and be able to trust my body to keep performing the most basic, necessary function. I sleep now. I can look at my kids without crying. It took a long time, but I'm working on shrinking that elephant. The first thing I had to do was get rid of the stupid marquis!
I was dead. True. For a few minutes.
My kids would have grown up with the memory of a mother who loved them (and still does) with all her heart. And if I was blessed enough to make the journey, I would be consulting away with Jesus about them every second of their lives, until we were together again in paradise.
Luke, Colleen, Mom and Dad, Boo, Laurie, all of my friends and family, I would never cause you one second of pain knowingly. And knowing that I did makes me feel so very sorry. More than I can ever apologize for.
But I didn't do anything wrong! That elephant can roar it's terrible roar, and wail away, and even try to tear at my body, but today I will look it in the eye, and say, "Knock it OFF!". You don't get to scare me today. I'm alive, and no stupid elephant will keep me from being who I am, because I survived, I'm recovering, and I'm living happily ever after!
Somewhere there is a woman who just received her elephant today, and I'll do my best to help her. I'll tell her it's okay to be scared for a while. I'll tell her it's okay to be sad for a while, but don't get stuck there. I'll tell her it's okay to get really REALLY angry at her Maker, and really REALLY let loose your anger with him, because he's big enough to take it, and still love her. I'll tell her she's not alone, then I'll make sure that's true. When I help her, my elephant shrinks. Hers will shrink, too, and I hope she won't feel like the same crippled, lost heart patient that I did back then. I hope she's in a really good place when she finds herself at "three years later".