Friday, October 27, 2017

The Next Right Thing

I had a bit of a scare yesterday.

I had planned to drive my brother to an appointment with an ophthalmologist (eye surgeon; he has cataracts) so I went for the 2-hour trip to his place (out of province).  When I got to his house, I realized that he either wasn't there or he was unable to open the door for me. Some frantic calls later, I learned (thanks to a great RCMP officer) that he had been admitted to hospital in a neighboring city the previous day. He gave me the telephone number at the nurse's station of his unit and also his room number. I called and got an update - he was in the cardiac care unit but was stable. The relief I felt that he was alive and being cared for eclipsed the anxiety of what might lie ahead for him.

Photo "Footprints On The Beach Sand"
courtesy of foto76 at

Since I was already there and within an hour's drive of the hospital he was in, I decided to go to see him, which I did. Braving the open highway, and multiple exits to the city I was going to, was worth the extra stress of making the trip!  He was in good spirits and so glad to see me! He was hooked up to an intravenous tube with a couple of extra bags - nitro-glycerine and heparin - and to heart, blood pressure, and oxygen monitors.  It was comforting to see the numbers and the regular rhythm of his heartbeat on the screen.  We chatted for a while about this and that, and I decided that while I was in the building, I would go and see Mom, who has dementia.  I promised my brother that I'd come back and see him before I left the building to go home.

I had called Mom's unit so often, and hospitals are laid out in pretty much the same way on each floor, that it was easy to find her area after having been to his. When I got there, I found her in a common area with a few people. She was playing Skip-Bo, her favorite card game, and trouncing everyone while she was at it. She barely looked up when I came in, except to express surprise to see me - which is normal for her. As I chatted with one of the other visitors, I watched while her right hand repeatedly picked the brightly-colored cards out of her left and played them on the discard pile. She was still unbeatable. And when she won, she didn't show pleasure, only a slight disappointment that the activity was over. And then she forgot she had done it. It was like she was home, except that ... she wasn't.

Once one of the people left, and we herded Mom back into her room (reminding her three times to not forget her walker), I shared with the other visitors (honorary Bro and Sis) the news about my brother, while managing to keep Mom from cluing in to it.  That's easy these days because she doesn't hear well and only can focus on one person at a time: whoever is in front of her usually.  I got a chance to visit with all of them, though. As visits go, it was pretty good. :)

Later, honorary Bro and I went down to see my brother in the CCU while honorary Sis and Mom kept playing cards in her room. The events just flowed, like they'd been prepared for me in advance, and all I needed to do was walk into them and take my place. Seeing her didn't fill me with dread or sadness; she was still Mom. 

The whole day was - I was going to say easy, but that isn't the right word. I was just ... living in each moment as it came without wondering where the next one would lead. It was an odd experience, unlike any other, but it felt completely natural. I just did whatever came next. Naturally.

"Do the next right thing" is a slogan that I have known about for close to nine years. The beauty of it is that word "next" because it implies that there is always a next time, and a next, and a next. Yesterday was supremely stressful and there were a lot of ups and downs in it (including the harrowing drive to the hospital at high speed on fairly unfamiliar roads among unforgiving drivers in high winds that buffeted the little car I was driving). But each segment of the day - including the drive and all the components of it - was one more step in doing "the next right thing."  I have rarely been more aware that I was exactly where I should be and doing the very thing that I was meant to do in that moment. It was like those moments were being orchestrated, conducted by a Master Designer, to meet not only their needs, but my own in the process. 

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