A few weeks ago I found myself back at the Mayo Clinic while a family member had a lifesaving surgery. It wasn't even in my radar as I drove down to join other family members for the vigil during surgery that it would bring up my time at Mayo with GiraffeDaddy 8 years ago. It might be naive of me, but the surgery was unrelated and it's been years since that first experience. Plus I've been there multiple times since then and never had any real emotional triggers from those visits, so I didn't expect one this time. But there I sat in a waiting room essentially identical to the one I sat in that day. I found myself drawn back to that experience. It wasn't too bad at first. Not long after they were taken to surgery we were moved to a different waiting room, one much different than the large waiting room I spent that long day in. I didn't really think about it again until the surgery finished and we went down to the surgical consult rooms to talk to the surgeon. At the Mayo you get taken to a hall of tiny rooms and you wait for your surgeon to come talk to you. As we sat there waiting in a room identical to the room from 8 years ago the feelings rushed over me. So little was similar to that first experience. It was a completely different surgery, I was there with multiple other family members this time, and I was older and wiser and knew what to expect. But as we waited there I heard a nurse on the phone outside our room explain to a family that their infant daughter would have her chest open still as she came out of open-heart surgery, and I was momentarily flooded by the memories of the journey of my niece's daughter's heart surgeries and heart transplant. Much of my family I was there with that day had never been through surgery with a family member, so I held it together until I left that night.
I didn't make it out of the parking lot before the tears fell. I can't even tell you everything I was crying about. But I realized something that day. When we left 8 years ago I really believed that was our one surgery in this hospital. But being there that day for something unrelated made me rethink that view. We have a large extended family who could be treated for any multitude of things, like cancer, organ failure, diabetes and other things. We have two children with mild aortic aneurysms. I have a large extended marfamily, many who have the potential to end up in surgery if I'm honest with myself. Those waiting rooms and surgical consult rooms aren't a one time stop for me. They are a lifeline for so many of those I love, and my journey with that hospital and those rooms will be lifelong. And even if I don't think about it in between these visits, each journey will come with memories of the times before. And those emotions will bubble up and blend with the new ones in a overwhelming whirlpool of memory. It is part of this journey I choose to take, and I will see it as a gift not a burden.
I will cherish the unique picture of humanity a hospital shows us. It is a gift to witness the fragility of life, to appreciate the blessing of a single breath of air and beat of a heart. To be blessed with a shared story of another in the waiting room's loved one as they nervously await news. To offer a hug to a crying person overwhelmed with decisions about their loved ones health, or to receive that hug from a stranger at my own time of need. I will celebrate the medical advances and surgical miracles that give my loved ones hope. And recognize that there was a time in my husband's lifetime that the life-saving surgery he had wasn't available. I will continue to wear my heart on my sleeve, to optimistically believe that all will end up ok. And I will be grateful that this medical haven of knowledge is so close to my family when it is needed. I don't know how to protect my heart and emotions against these experiences, but I can choose how I look at them and I can choose to reflect on the blessings that come with these hard experiences. And for this unaffected marfmom, that ability is a Victory.