Saturday, April 29, 2017

The sacred gift of LIFE

SIXTY???  SIXTY???  How in the world did THAT happen?

Early in the morning on March 1, I watched the clock change from 5:27 to 5:28 a.m. According to my birth certificate, that moment marked precisely 60 years since my mother was not-so-gently relieved of her first phase of caring for me, as she delivered me to the world. (Thank you, Mom, for that moment and for so much more; I miss you.)

I looked in a mirror that morning, poked and prodded in a few places, stretched and bent, and thought carefully about how I felt. Somehow, there wasn't a bit of difference between David at 5:27 and David at 5:28. The clock tick didn't mean a thing. I'm now officially in my sixties; but so what?

But SIXTY! How can that be?? Passing each decade milestone seems to challenge our comprehension. These big numbers always applied to another generation, to old people, and not to me. I am still just a young fellow, full of vigor and energy, with my whole life ahead of me—right? I am NOWHERE NEAR the "senior citizen" phase of life!

Now if I look at the difference of decades instead of years, and try to compare the David at 30 with the David at 60, I might notice a little more variance—in some ways better, in some ways worse. There are more grey hairs, to be sure. There have been achievements and positive milestones, as well as some mistakes and some hard lessons learned between those two Davids. There have been some deep trials and some heart-rending disappointments among the joys and celebrations. But, that is life, right? I guess I'm glad to report that the weight is about the same, and physical conditioning is probably at least as good if not better now than then. There is much more experience and memory to draw upon. And there is a family—aw, the sweetness of a family.

Someone (Pope Paul VI or Nikita Ivanovich Panin, the Internet isn't sure which one) said, "In youth the days are short and the years are long; in old age the years are short and the days long." As the passage of years begins to accelerate, I feel the truth of that observation.

I often ponder on the fact that my own father was granted barely 45 years on this earth. There are so many privileges I have had, that he was not permitted to have:
• baptize and confirm all my children
• ordain my son to the priesthood
• watch children grow and mature into fine adults
• support a son on a mission
• experience the temple with my children
• see my children happily married to wonderful spouses
• experience the growing joy of grandchildren
• have my marriage relationship seasoned and deepened
As I ponder the joy of that list of family-related events, I can't help but be overwhelmed with gratitude for the gift of life. I am not just adding years; I am adding joy, constantly, as each day is granted to me. How grateful I am for that continuing blessing, for as long as God will permit it to last!

FAST FORWARD eight weeks after my 60th birthday to this week.  I'm now 60 years and 8 weeks old, and pretty proud that I can still climb mountains and do challenging things. But then, life gets your attention and knocks you back a step.

So before I know it, I'm lying in a hospital bed with an IV in my arm and an NG tube rudely inserted into my stomach, wondering if there is more surgery to come and whether my physically-active lifestyle might be about to change.

Early Tuesday morning of this week I had hiked with some friends at 5:45 a.m. as we often do for an hour of morning exercise. I came home and had breakfast with my sweetie, then showered and got ready for the day. But mid-morning, I started to feel discomfort in my stomach, and it continued to worsen through the morning. My abdomen became firm and then distended, and the discomfort turned painful.  By early afternoon, vomiting had not relieved the pressure, and it became obvious that this was not just an upset stomach.

I called Bonnie and we were soon seeing a doctor; an x-ray indicated a likely obstruction in the small intestine. We were sent off to the hospital, where I was admitted and a CT scan confirmed the diagnosis. The NG tube, as incredibly uncomfortable as it was to insert and maintain, helped to drain fluid and pressure from my stomach and brought some relief. I was left to wait overnight; the bowels often are able to correct the obstruction when the pressure is relieved, so we hoped that would be the case. In the morning, a barium swallow test with a series of x-rays confirmed that there appeared to no longer be an obstruction. In the afternoon, I started drinking and then eating soft foods; by evening I was back at home.

Amazingly, it is likely that this obstruction was related to the abdominal surgery I had in connection with my cancer 29 years ago. It's apparently not unusual for the delicate bowels, having been disturbed, to harbor scar tissue or some other remnant of the disturbance that can eventually result in some kind of blockage.

So now that "this too has passed," I am left to ponder mortality and uncertainty. I have no guarantee of additional years; I have no guarantee of additional DAYS. Not one of us does. Once again, I am reminded how precious life is, and how much every single morning should be considered a sacred gift. I must treasure each moment, find joy in all I do, serve where I can, keep trials in the proper perspective, grow in the love of my treasured family and dear friends, and never forget how blessed I am in God's hands.


ElderP said...

Nice post, every so often it is good to stop and reflect. Then again there is always another mountain to climb. Glad to hear you are doing better. Hope to see more mountain top pictures soon.

Deborah Sudweeks said...

Thank you for sharing David. Scott and I send our love your way. You are a great man. We are so happy to call you friend.
Scott & Debbie

Julie said...

I'm glad you are doing better! You have many more mountains to climb!

Unknown said...

Speedy recovery David. Your in my prayers. We've got a mountain to climb. 😊

Jana Coburn said...

Speedy recovery David. Your in my prayers. We've got a mountain to climb. 😊

Claron said...

Thanks for sharing that experience. I'm happy that you came through it okay so far. On my next hike with you I'd like to hear about that cancer. You're in my prayers.