Nine years ago, I found myself in the intensive care unit of our local hospital holding my very sick seven-month-old baby boy. We had checked into the emergency room four days earlier when I realized my baby was having difficulty breathing. Each day he progressively got worse. He was less responsive, and his oxygen saturation level continued to drop. On this particular day, the doctor came to us and explained that he did not know what was wrong with our baby and that he and the hospital staff simply did not know how to help him. To our relief, the doctor then suggested sending him on life flight to a major hospital a few hours away.
The two hours that it took for the new hospital team to arrive may have been the longest two hours of my life. There lay our sweet baby boy with monitors and tubes going in and out of his almost-lifeless little body. At one time, we counted thirteen members of the hospital staff buzzing chaotically around his bed. They were losing him, and no one in our remote hospital seemed to know how to help.
When the life flight team finally arrived, the mood in the room dramatically changed. This new team simply took over. They barely spoke to one another as they confidently worked in perfect unison to prep the baby for the flight. My husband and I huddled in the corner and literally begged God to save the life of our baby. There was nothing more we could do.
The small plane that would transport the baby and I waited at the local airport. We needed to take a short ambulance ride through town to get there; never in my life do I remember time standing still as it did that day. I had not been away from the baby’s side since checking into the hospital days earlier. My life had simply been forgotten, set aside while I attended to the needs of my baby. As I rode in the front seat of the ambulance down the main street of our town, I felt as though I was having an out-of-body experience. I felt like I was watching the world go on around me in slow motion: people were scurrying here and there, running errands, playing in the park, talking on their cell phones, eating in the front window of the local hangout. Suddenly life seemed so trivial–all of the things I was witnessing were so insignificant. Where were their families? Had they taken the time to embrace their loved ones that day and tell them how much they loved and needed them? Did they have any idea how blessed they were to be healthy and strong and not be in my shoes at that moment?
After several days in the hospital, we took our recovering baby boy home. By process of elimination, the doctors determined he had suffered from viral pneumonia. Today he is healthy and strong with no lasting effects from his illness. Everyday I thank God that he is alive, and I can only hope that we will never know a worse day than the one when he was life-flighted.
For weeks after this experience, I had no interest in television, newspapers, or magazines. My only desire was to care for my family. I spent hours holding my sweet children, listening to the sound of their voices and finding joy each time they giggled. My husband and I held one another close and shed many tears of gratitude for our healthy growing family.
Had we not learned from this experience, I believe our son’s suffering would have been in vain. Life grants all of us opportunities for learning and growth. These experiences help us sift through the noise and chaos of the world to find the things that are truly deserving of our time, talents, and energy.
In the workbook titled “Restoring Margin to Overloaded Lives” by Richard Swenson, I found a brilliant quote: “Saying no is not an excuse for non-involvement, laziness, or insensitivity. Instead, it is purely a mechanism for living by our priorities, allowing God to direct our lives rather than the world, and preserving our vitality for the things that really matter” (117).
Whenever I feel frazzled and disconnected from my family I reflect on our experience. I envision myself riding in the ambulance through town once again. I ask myself what was important to me that day, what stood out as most deserving of my precious time. Then I take a candid look at my current life and ask if the same things are still at the top of my list. If not, I know it is time to have a conversation with myself with pen and paper in hand. It is up to me to find ways to keep my priorities in order. I must understand that saying “no” to things at the bottom of my list will greatly bless the people at the top of my list.
QUESTION: Is there a time in your life that you were forced to “sift” your priorities? What was important to you then?
CHALLENGE: Have a conversation with yourself. Ask yourself if there are things in your life that you need to say “no” to in order to devote more time and energy to yourself and your family.
Photo by lindsey @ www.flickr.com