The kitchen clock breaks the silence of the early morning as I wait for the Keurig drip to complete its work, reminding me that the demands of the day have begun. Coffee and quiet reflection, reading, solace and contemplation must fit neatly into increments metered out by the demands of the day. Numbers soldier their way through my thoughts and dance around my spinning emotions tugging me to and fro. They pull me through day and night, waking me with my iPhone’s Birdsong alarm and crawling under the covers with me at the end of the day.
Numbers represent my husbands need for oxygen (24/7); his declining blood oxygen levels (90, 88, 75); settings on his portable and stationary concentrators (2-4 liters); dates of doctor’s appointments, CT scans and spirometer tests; age after his recent birthday (70). There are additional numbers, the time it takes for his portable oxygen tank to charge, and how many hours/minutes are left available on his portable unit. Numbers dictate how long he has to work in the flower beds outside and the time we have to enjoy any activity away from home.
Numbers remind me that life is a vapor. Every moment precious. Every breath a gift.
It is so easy to forget how precarious our earthly sojourn is when health courses silently through the fibers of our flesh.
For the celebration of his 70thbirthday, family and friends sent letters, cards, and pictures that I arranged in a scrapbook album for him. I am not a scrap booker. My first attempt was his book – but putting the pages together for him brought so much joy. Themes of his kindness, creativity, musical ability, integrity, humor, and so much more ink the letters and fill expressions penned in cards. He is well loved and respected and now has a book full of tributes to communicate, at least in part, how very much.
Lately, our before bed conversations are focused on heaven…what it must be like…what to look forward to…the unimportance of what we daily view as stressful and/or worthwhile. I have more gratitude for what I used to overlook or discount – the rich smell of the flowers on our deck and porch, conversation in the morning over coffee. Taking time to respond to and reflect on topics important to him. The way he cares for me – putting many things in place so I will not have to think about what, where, why, when or how when he can no longer point me in the right direction. How can his thoughts be so centered on what I might need? I am in awe of his faith and servant spirit at a time when he could feel entitled to concentrate only on his wants and needs.
He is my hero.
I fight to push away the “what ifs?” and “what will I do whens?” I’ve spent so much of my life mentally fleeing from the unpleasant, painful or abusive. I’ve nearly a lifetime full of practice. But I don’t want to escape one moment of our life together now.
Today, this moment, I choose again to be in this moment with my Tom. I choose to have gratitude in all the spaces where numbers plot and plan. I can choose to rest in knowing that the everlasting arms of God carry us lovingly all the way to the glorious finish line, even while numbers demand and minutes tick away.
Christine Browning is a lover of story—including her own. She loves to hear and longs to respond well to others’ stories. A late bloomer in the field of education, it is her absolute delight to teach at Milligan College in East Tennessee. She also counsels women who have experienced trauma and abuse. Christine is the mother of three adult children, three incredible grandchildren and has been married for 42+ years to her delightfully playful husband, Tom.