by Dr. Margaret Rutherford, Miss June 2016
In mid-May, my son graduated from Vanderbilt in Nashville. My heart swelled with pride.
Two days later, my heart was still my focus. But I thought I was either about to have a heart attack, or a stroke.
When I got to the hospital, I had chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea, and a tight pressure I had never felt — or if I’m truthful, I’d felt at times, but denied its significance.
After a day and a half of heavy meds to bring down sky-high blood pressure, plus going through every heart procedure you could have, I learned that I had an unusual heart condition called “Prinzmetal’s Angina”, which can be treated through medication. The symptoms mimic those of having a heart attack.
Suffice it to say I was glad to hear that news.
That’s what I learned medically. Yet it’s what I was reminded of emotionally that is most meaningful.
My family and friends are all the bounty one woman could ever need. To say they “rose to the occasion” is not enough.
My son slept on the floor beside me, putting off the camping trip he had been planning for months with friends. My husband took care of everything that had to be… well, taken care of. Both, although upset, stayed close to me. My secretary took a whole day of her weekend to call umpteen hundred patients (not really, but it was a lot) to try to let them know the doctor would not be in. Brothers found out info. Sisters were constant in their support. Nephews (one, helpfully a physician) and nieces sent texts and funny pics of kids to make me laugh. Friends, both old and new, messaged and did what they could to help — even if it was to chide me a bit.
“Now maybe you’ll slow down.“
All sent their own kind of prayers.
When I got a little teary, waiting my turn for a heart cath, I channeled my dad, who’s deceased, but had major cardio issues himself.
What would he tell me?
“Focus on all that you have, and not on what you can’t control.”
He also would have reminded me to tell my son I wasn’t afraid. And that I did.
But let’s face it. Many people don’t have the words of a wonderful dad as a guide, or a family that’s standing by to come at a moment’s notice, if the news isn’t good.
Perhaps you’re one of those people.
You can still experience “family.” I have a plaque in my office that states, “Friends are your family of choice.” You can create relationships that will be there for you — people who will love you the way you should have been loved. If you were abused or neglected, talking to someone about it can help. Working through shame is vital (children tend to blame themselves for abuse…). Then you can grieve for the time you didn’t receive that safety — when you were a child and could only survive parents who couldn’t or didn’t protect.
These same parents or other family members may still be in your life, and remain selfish, abusive, or hurtful. You can alter your relationship with them. It can be difficult, but it can be done.
You’re not helpless anymore.
Building your own family takes work, but seems better than staying emotionally paralyzed, angry, or bitter. You may have to work through those feelings as well, as they’re as much a part of grieving as sadness.
You can build a network of caring people, who will be there for you when you need them.
Please think about it.
Whether or not that family has been yours since the get-go, or it’s been carefully created by you, it doesn’t have to matter. When push comes to shove — their love is really all that counts.
Intangible bounty – there waiting for you, when you need it.