A TEACHER’S BLESSING:
A lesson about the greatest teacher
there ever was, is, or will be, LOVE. . .
By Adam Crosthwaite
It was rainy Saturday morning in the desert, a rare treat to say the least. I was on my way to a friend’s house to help them move into a new apartment. I was in a good mood that morning, another rare treat considering my distaste for “waking up” in this dismal plane of existence. I wolfed down my breakfast and headed for the front door. Two steps from the door my cell phone rang. The number I did not recognize but the voice was familiar. It was my former land lord calling with a message from Angel, my ex-wife and mother of our one and a half year old daughter Emily. Emily was on her way to the emergency room. Angel was with her.
I can’t recall what happened first but I was suddenly in my car on the freeway heading to the hospital downtown. I don’t remember how I got the name of the hospital they were on route to but I knew where I was going. As I was on the freeway I started to run through all the prayers in what ever language I could think of. Every kind of prayer and meditation from worlds too old to be remembered in written history that I had memorized were pouring out of me almost as fiercely as the tears that blinded me. I can remember most of the drive I was talking to her in my mind and heart. “Its okay Emily, Daddy is on the way”. I told her to hang on I would be there to help, just wait one minute longer, every thing will be okay. In retrospect I realize I was not talking to myself trying to calm down, I was actually talking to her just like I always have even though I was not there physically for her to see with her eyes.
Somewhere between forever and yesterday I finally arrived at the hospital. As I walked down the corridor toward the ER entrance I could feel the pull of urgency from behind the walls as I navigated the maze through the hospital. When I got to the ER they wasted no time. Before I could blink I was standing at a curtain with a sea of doctors and nurses standing between Emily and me. My daughter was lying there with a tube in her keeping her little lungs breathing. Angel was standing there crying, shaking, waiting for Emily to sit up and smile. At that point I couldn’t relate to my emotions at all, I felt emotionless, not cold and disconnected. I did not go numb or lose the capacity to feel, I simply was not reacting to the pull from my emotional centers any longer. I was still feeling the emotion within my mind as it responded to my daughter and what she was going through. In other words, I was operating in that famous male operating mode known as emergency management veneer.
Between the tears and sobs Angel began to tell me what had happened. Emily and Angel had just finished breakfast and were sitting on the couch enjoying Saturday morning cartoons as was the customary routine for the weekend. Suddenly Emily’s head dropped to one side and she couldn’t sit up. Angel did not know what was happening or what was going to happen next. Angel tried to call 911 on her cell phone but could not get a signal, the land line was down. Angel ran carrying Emily in her arms to the front office of her complex to use the landlord’s phone. The landlord tried to help Angel but by the time the paramedics were able to get Emily to the ER she had had twelve seizures.
Emily was cleared for the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) and was taken upstairs to the fourth floor for observation and treatments. On the way to the PICU we passed families from every walk of life. Some of them were standing in hallways crying, others were celebrating a child being discharged to go home. Everyone we passed stopped and silently watched as we disappeared down the corridor with our daughter strapped to a bed with a breathing machine keeping her lungs full of air. She was moved to a crib with her arms restrained to keep her from pulling the breathing tube out of her throat or the IVs out of her arm. The curtain over her door was drawn closed and the staff for the weekend was introduced to us. Then it was time to make the phone calls.
We stayed in the room for so long standing over her crib talking to her, holding her delicate little hand waiting for her to open her eyes and smile yet it seemed like only minutes. About six hours had passed and we forced down a dinner from the kitchen. Nether one of us was hungry but we were not in the mood for another lecture from the nurse about parents not taking care of themselves.
There was only a padded bench in the room to sleep on. Angel and I decided to take watches in shifts; we did not know how long this was going to take. It took the first few days for Angel to agree to go home for one night. It was amazing how well we worked together. The nurses of the PICU didn’t even know we were separated until we told them on the fourth day. They told us they were impressed at how well we worked together for our daughter. We just smiled it, was not about us. It was about her, or so we thought.
After a few days had passed Angel and I started talking about the grim possibility that exists for every parent in a situation where their child is in an extreme medical condition: resuscitation. As we discussed the possibility of Emily not waking up or not being able to breath on her own, I got a call from Christine. She wanted to know how Emily was doing and if she was able to have visitors. I gave her the information and told her there was no limitation on visits as long as Emily was allowed to rest. Since Emily was still sedated it seemed a mute point. A few hours later, I saw something I did not expect.
Suddenly I my attention was drawn to the hallway and ordinarily when that happens there is a shift occurring within the energies of the environment I find myself in based on my past Martial Arts Training and current training with Dr. Strickler. David was coming! It felt like forever but in reality it was only a few minutes until his arrival. Suddenly, David, Christine and Wendy were all in the room.
The four of us stood around Emily. Everyone took turns holding her little hand and whispering to her, telling her what was in their hearts. David talked to her for a moment and then talked to Angel and me. I walked with David and the ladies to the exit. We talked on the way, about what I can’t remember now. As David left the hospital he stopped to rest against a pillar. That pillar was at the same entrance to the hospital that the ambulance had brought him to when he was taken to The Barrows Neurological Stroke Unit in August of 2004.
As I looked at him I realized how difficult it was for him to return to the place where he almost left this life. At that moment I understood that there was more going on here than Emily being sick. David showed his students that you go where you are needed no matter what. This brought new meaning to me for the statement he had used with us all, “Humility is the acknowledgement of the Truth, no matter how painful it may be.”
By the end of the first week we had grown accustomed to the daily routine of the PICU. Six days after she arrived at St. Joseph’s Hospital the doctors agreed that she was ready to be extubated. Less than one hour after they removed the breathing tube Emily’s throat started to swell. She would be intubated for three more days. By the second Monday she was breathing without the use of the machine. I sat with her for the first hour after the tube came out feeding her ice chips as she was allowed out of her crib for the first time in over one week to sit with me. I sat there with her in my arms for an hour as she slept. Although I held her for an hour, it felt like less than five minutes. The agreement Angel and I had made days before about my being the one to make the difficult choice for Emily if that point was reached faded. She was going to be okay.
The next day Emily was transferred to the Pediatric Unit on the third floor of the hospital. She was doing better and spent most of the day sleeping quietly until the Respiratory Therapist visited her every three hours to do a treatment. During the next two weeks Emily would go through many ups and downs as she slowly recovered and her body rebalanced itself from the seizures. It was during this two week period that Angel and I found out just how much we don’t get along, yet we still stuck by each other and helped one another get through this time.
I often reflect on the events of two months ago. The daughter I watched grow and learn is still here. She climbs everything she can get hold of and never falls. She has regained most of her abilities she had prior to the seizures. I still get calls in the middle of night from Angel telling me about ongoing seizures, how long they last, how many she has in a day. I still wonder which one might be the last. At times I still fear that the last one will be her final moments with us.
In the three weeks at the hospital Angel and I both underwent many changes. I can not speak for her but I learned a great deal about myself as well as the nature of human beings in relationships. It has been a journey of discovery over the past two months following the initial hospital stay. There is one thing that Angel told me that continues to play over and over in my head. Angel’s greatest fear other than losing her daughter was the possibility that it was her fault. She continues to question her abilities as a parent. Every therapist Emily has seen comments on how well she is doing. I have heard many times how well she has recovered and is learning above her range. Emily is a special person. Of course I am biased but she has affected more in her short time here on Earth than she could ever know on a self-conscious level, but Angel has also had a hand in her recovery as well. As I only have Emily for a day or two every week it is the hard work and dedication of her mom that helps her to recover and continue to grow. Without all the dedicated staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona Emily could not have made it as far as she has come.
Emily has become my teacher, in a sense, just as much as I have become one of David’s students. It has been interesting to see the Inner Teacher make Its presence known as It walks with us all in every aspect of life. I watched the man I know to be a Master in the Qabalistic Art walk back into the last place on earth he would have chosen to go to be with his student in a time of great need. I watched an incredible team of Health Care Professionals work together to save a life. I watched a woman torn apart by grief care for and nurture her child to give her the best possible chance for recovery, and THEN I watched my child, Emily, barely old enough to walk and say her first words, fight for her life and win. She fought through pain, she faced a fear and darkness which I can only relate to as a frightened parent standing on the outside waiting and hoping to see his daughter walk again. She fought the fight of a champion just as David had a year and a half before in the same hospital. And when she came up she didn’t get up swinging, she came up smiling just like he did.
I can not describe to you at this time in words what we went through that month. This was written as both a thank you and acknowledgement of those who made the journey in and out of darkness for my family bearable. I have learned too much to put into one article but I promise to share that which I have learned from my life with my daughter in the coming year. Nothing can ever prepare someone to survive the nightmare of all nightmares for parents. I have been told that I handled that three weeks better than people thought I would. Perhaps it is best that I was not aware of the fears of those around me as they watched me travel through the darkness. As hard as a teacher may seem at times, each lesson is a blessing in itself as it is a lesson of love.
There is a quote from one of my favorite movies that I can say I truly understand now:
“There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path…”
Lessons come in many different forms. Some of the hardest moments in our lives are nothing more than lessons about our lives. Remember to live the lessons and never doubt that this will come to pass.
May the Inner Teacher in your life be as loving to you and bless you as I have found the blessings in my lesson in love.