A year ago, I nearly died about a thousand miles from home.
I was in Kansas City for a conference, networking with my old man. Mid conversation with a gentlemanly Texan, I nearly doubled over in pain.
I spent the next 48 hours confined to my hotel room. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say, I was sick. My dad brought me to Walgreens, where the nice lady in their “clinic” checked me out. I could barely walk and I had awful stomach pain. She said her lunch was about to start and that she’d take me to the hospital. We were taken to the ER. My senses must have been heightened because I could smell every ounce of body odor wafting through the air.. I stumbled into the bathroom, throwing- up, leaning against the wall, a nasty yellow bile from Chernobyl coated the toilet seat.
I couldn’t move, paralyzed in pain, wondering if any more was possible to bear. Suddenly, a nurse came in and I dropped into her wheelchair. She wheeled me back and hooked me up to an IV. They drew some blood and a nice lady came-in to tell me that the doctor would be in shortly.
I may have passed out at that point, I’m not really sure. It became a blur from there.
I remember telling the anesthetist not to “let all these nice pretty ladies see me exposed.” Apparently, that request went ignored, as when I came-to 12 hours later, they had me all bandaged around my underwear fine, as the laparoscopic surgery needed three holes.
My appendix had burst and I had, unwittingly, allowed it to stay burst for far too long. Another few hours and my life would have been over.
The doctor had to inflate my stomach and clean it thoroughly, as my whole innards had been marinating in toxins.
That week at St. Luke’s Hospital was the longest of my life, and not because I was a Catholic at an Episcopalian care center.
All day, on my back, grimacing through the pain. I didn’t want to take too many painkillers, but sometimes, waking up with tears streaming down my face from pain, disoriented on an uncomfortable hospital bed, with neighbors yelling at the nurses, it was more a necessity than a choice. .
Most of the nurses there were wonderful and one of them was an angel sent from God. Betty was a short, thin, older black woman with the most beautiful soul I have ever encountered. She would go stay with her dying sister each night, caring for her, then come to the hospital to work a 12 hour shift.
Her strength and her faith encouraged me. Her kind words and tender touch comforted me. She helped me to wash and change my socks. She made me get up and walk when I wanted to least and needed to most. She called me “baby” and she told me about her children.
I can’t help but feel that I’ll never see her again, her presence was so remarkable yet fleeting. I never got to say goodbye to her when I was finally discharged. Betty wasn’t there that day. Strange as it may sound, I just wanted to tell her that I love her.
There was a mustached man who came in at night to check up on me and let me know that all the yelling was because the Royals had won game 6 of the World Series. He took the time to give me advice about having a family.
They took so much blood, my arm looked like it had belonged to a lifelong IV-heroin addict.
My time in that hospital made me remember that there is more to life than 18-hour workdays. Our lives have meaning and purpose and no small measure of those things is the impact we have on those around us. Living life lovingly does more good than most anything else. And a kind word or warm smile can save someone’s life forever.
I want to thank everyone at St. Luke’s Hospital, the PA at Walgreens, and everyone at the JOC. Thanks Monsignor Nave and everyone at Juventutem for the prayers. Thanks to the FSSP Priest who came and visited me. Also, my mother and father for taking care of me and being there for me when there were plenty of other things to attend to. Also, cousin Nola, who put me up for a couple of nights, fed me, and was just great company while I waited for my flight.
Sometimes, we can never repay the debts we find ourselves in.
Sometimes, the best we can do is just pay it forward.
Today, I am still alive and healthy because of all these people I mentioned, more I did not, and still more whose roles I never was aware of. Melior, too, exists because of all these people. And so, this year later, I just want to thank everyone who helps and encourages others. And to all those discouraged in what you do-remember that it is the little things that mean everything. And at the end of our lives, we will be more well-remembered for the kindness that we share than for all the riches we keep ourselves.