A very dear, family friend received a double lung transplant yesterday. And we appreciate the fact that one person’s misery can be another person’s miracle. We also know his road to recovery is long, but we are tugging on God’s robe begging for these new lungs to function properly. His one wish is to be able to mow his lawn again. Extravagant man, isn’t he?
All of this got me thinking about the ordinary joy and necessity of taking our next breath. It is so automatic, we hardly even consider it. Until that breath doesn’t come. Then our sanity and safety whirls out of reality, while absolute, indescribable panic overtakes our body and soul. And this is from an observer’s standpoint….so I doubt I even came close to capturing that moment.
Growing up, my youngest son was a severe asthmatic. In my book there is a story entitled: ‘Waiting for the Next Breath: Life with an Asthmatic’. My son is now 27 years old and has relatively few problems breathing. I never thought I would be writing that sentence, because between the ages of nine months and twelve years, I made many deals with God on his behalf. This same young man recorded a cd with his band. The first song entitled, ‘Hey Love…”is my favorite. You want to know why? Because at the very onset of this tune he takes a breath. A small thing, I suppose, unless you are the mother. Then that small intake of air, becomes the most wondrous part of the musical composition. I doubt any other person has ever noticed it. A clear, innocent, expected breath sailing on that sea of music. I never tire of hearing it.
I can’t really remember a time when breathing was an issue for me. Oh yeah, maybe in gym class when I had to run some ridiculous amount of laps in a baggy gym suit. (If you have to ask what a gym suit is, you never had to wear one. That article of clothing is a blog of its own). Or when I fell and got the wind knocked out of me…..now that was pretty scary. But a few sobs later, it was all better. Life went on.
Do you remember, back in the day, when a baby was born and the infant was grasped by the ankles and held upside down–then whacked on the backside? How barbaric! But the truth of the matter was that the doc was using gravity to help drain the airway and the smack startled the babe into crying, thus breathing. Okay….so maybe Dr. Oz or Dr. Phil would poo-poo it but hey, it inflated new lungs. Should we revert back to that medical practice? Heck no! Life smacks us around enough as it is.
My son-in-law is a fire fighter. In his training, the recruits had to drain their oxygen bottle to see how long they could react and make decisions under those conditions, and to truly appreciate the terror of being without oxygen. It is something a recruit never forgets. It is always my prayer that this training exercise is never repeated in his daily line of duty. That being said, how many of us get up and go to work, realizing that wearing an oxygen tank is part of the regimen? No thanks. I’ll stick to grading papers, thank you.
There is a common phrase that says: “Life is not counted by how many breaths we take, but by how many times life takes our breath away.” Pretty cool. What if we HAD to keep count of every breath we took? You know, like some pulmonary inventory or something. And in our obits it said, “Ralph Smith passed away on January 1, 2014 and took ————recorded breaths. (My apologies to Ralph Smith, if you are reading this. Keep breathing. You’re fine). I am thinking our breaths would not be squandered, but honored and handled with sacred care.
Perhaps I am making a big deal out of a biological process we call breathing. But we all know that when the process becomes flawed, life is gravely interrupted.
There’s no going back to catch that lost breath. Make it count.
Tomorrow depends on it.