Personal Journeys with Gramma

Life adventures, inspiration and insight; shared in articles, advice, personal chats and pictures.

“You’re Gonna Die, Just Like Everybody Else.” (MOONSTRUCK)

Did you ever have a science fiction movie moment—you know, a time when you were cruising through life, not paying much attention, and then POW! the givens were out? Not all the givens you learned as a child, certainly, but conventions you had come to take for granted such as gravity or—in this case—normal speech. Then what?

My husband and I were headed for Costco—a very ordinary thing to do. He was driving and we were talking. I think we were discussing retirement priorities, an odd subject for someone as disdainful of the hard realities of life as I am. I was having increasing difficulty thinking of the precise words I wanted. My husband tried to fill in my blanks. Then, nonsensically, he said, “Why do you keep saying email?”

“I didn’t say anything about email,” I countered, wondering about his hearing.

“It’s like you’re repeating a loop.”

I glanced at him and saw he was upset…frightened. I tried to explain that he was mistaken when I realized the words coming out of my mouth didn’t match the words coming out of my brain. I was saying email.

“You’re having a stroke,” my husband said, struggling to keep his tone calm. “We have to go to a hospital.”

I couldn’t disagree or say more without repeating email instead. I forced myself to be quiet. I looked out the window. I chose two words to speak and gradually forced them to behave. “I’m okay.” I wasn’t experiencing any of the traditional physiological signs of stroke. I absorbed another silence. Gradually, I was able to construct one sentence, and then another, and finally I could say I didn’t want to go to a hospital. I wanted to go to lunch first to be sure I wasn’t merely hungry. Hunger was normalcy. We ended up in an ER, of course—after lunch. Luckily, we chose UCHealth in Colorado Springs, a peak experience in emergency care. Multiple friendly experts tested everything but my DNA over the next 24 hours, looking for a cause for my TIA (also known as a transient ischemic attack or minor stroke).

Fortunately for me, my episode was both temporary and minor, but no one dared assume it was a one-off, and no one could guarantee it wasn’t a harbinger of terrible times to come. As I sat there in the car, unable to control my speech, I understood that for now I’m just another mortal. My husband understood the same, and the fact scared us both. Not that we ever assumed we would be excused from death to live in our bodies forever, but we never truly believed we might be required to exit without warning—probably not together.

A brief glimpse of mortality can brighten the colors of living and make our love for one another and all the benefits of the everyday more intense. We treasure anything that’s limited edition and being alive certainly qualifies. At last we can perceive that which we have taken for granted. We don’t need to crowd together peak experiences to have a peak experience of life. If we maintain a healthy diet in spite of the indoctrination we’ve received to crave dangerous foods, practice fun but consistent exercise during which we notice and treasure our environment, and share unconditional love with as many people around us as we can, we’re in position to claim our unique share of an optimum life. The reward is worth a scare.

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