The Gift of Friendship
by Wendy Ford
Addendum to my Novermber article: Congress DID pass the Budget Reconciliation Act package that included the extension of the Medicare exceptions process for out patient rehabilitation services. To any who acted in response to my November 2006 article “Legislated Genocide?” Thank You.
Christmas comes at the same time every year, yet somehow it is always a surprise as to how fast it is “here” every year. For me, the approach of the Holy Season usually has a distinctive feel or quality to it. The carols on the radio and in the stores, the lights going up on the homes and businesses have always generated warm and fuzzy nostalgic remembrances of past Christmases and times spent with family and friends. This year has somehow been very different with an almost neutral quality to it for me. Usually I have had a sense of the need to give to others whether it was through emotional, physical or monetary gifting, that somehow unless I have given of myself to another that I haven’t really been a part of it. Great joy was always gleaned from coming up with an idea and great excitement generated in the planning and execution of a plan then watching or hearing of the reaction when the plan came together.
Each year there has been some meaningful gesture that is my “ah-hah” or highlight point of the season. Whether it was anonymously paying for a family’s dinner while dining out, leaving a 100 percent tip for a waitperson, watching the faces of loved ones as they opened the gifts chosen or made for them, adopting an angel off the mall tree or spending extra time with one of my elderly and alone patients listening to them share holiday memories, there has always been some observable action or tangible and physical form of giving involved. There was always a moment where my heart was filled to bursting with love and joy that proclaimed to me “that is what the season is all about”. This year I had been waiting for the moment to come but not even an inkling of an idea for anything was manifesting in my field of awareness.
This year my lessons came not in the form of giving, but in learning better how to receive. It has always been easier for me to be on the giving end of the equation, but this year a huge lesson was laid in front of me quite loudly and clearly. Learning to accept help graciously when it is lovingly and unconditionally offered is a key component in the balancing of the equation.
On Thursday, December 14, 2006 an abrupt end came to my wondering about what I was supposed to “do” this year to “do my part” and in what shape or form my giving would be manifest. At about 6:20 that evening I was involved in an auto accident. Thankfully no life threatening injuries but I don’t think the insurance company has a good prognosis for my beloved car. After 911 the first call was to Dr. Strickler who called Adam who called me. “Adam, I’m in need of a knight in shining armor. Can you come help me please?” Without hesitation the reply was “Where are you? I’m on the way.”
It is seemed as if it took only an instant and there came Adam walking toward me out of the darkness into the bright circle of light under the streetlight to where I was seated on a low brick wall with my back to the accident and the crawling rush hour traffic as the firefighters were taking my vital signs and filling out paper work. I have no idea of how long it really took him because the traffic was a mess and the firefighters had had to muscle my door open to help me out of my car. My adrenaline was still pumping at maximum and any female knows the dire effects kindness from a good friend can have in a moment like that. My first words to him were “Hey, Adam. Please don’t be nice to me right now.” Later he told me he had immediately recognized the signs by the rapid reciprocal tapping of my toes on the curb, a dead give away to an EMDR technique used in moments of extreme emotional stress.
Adam made a quick call and said Christine and David were on the way. Not liking to be a bother to others I had a moment’s feeling of guilt at having caused such a fuss and inconvenience to everyone’s evening followed almost instantly by a great feeling of thankfulness for having such good friends who would drop everything in an instant for my need. Yes, that moment also caused a great acceleration in the rate of toe tapping for I was NOT going to cry. If I started I might have caused a Great Flood in the desert.
Shortly thereafter David and Christine appeared and the same admonishment was given to David for Christine already knew that just being there was enough. Later David asked Christine if I was upset or mad at him. After the explanation of how it’s a girl thing I think he better understood the working of a female mind under emotional stress.
After all the paperwork and reports were done at the scene Adam drove me to the Emergency Room where Christine, David and Dianne met us. My last words to Christine before leaving the accident scene were “Please, no one call my husband yet.” He was in San Diego and until we knew more about the extent of my injuries it was meaningless to call him and upset him. Besides, I knew that until he heard MY voice he wouldn’t really believe what anyone said anyways, even Christine.
As I walked into the Emergency Department it occurred to me that Dr. Strickler had not been in that hospital since the night of his stroke in August of 2004. I know that walking through those emergency department sliding doors had to have been so hard for him. Perhaps, in the way of things, my being in that Emergency Department served to bring to further closure some of the emotional trauma suffered by Dr. Strickler, Dianne and Christine on the that awful night. Memories of that horrible night had to have been flashing through each of their conscious and subconscious awareness’s. For the toll that it had to have taken on them to do that in order to be there physically in that waiting area to offer their presence and support to me I want to publicly state my sincere gratitude. Thank you to Dianne for being there. I know you had to have just fought your way through rush hour to get to the refuge of home and were then pulled away. I also know you were pretty tired already and I thank you for your time and presence. You have no idea how much I appreciated that and what it meant to me.
When it was clear that it was going to be one very long wait after being Triaged, it seemed pretty silly for everyone to just hang around, so Christine drove Dr. Strickler and Dianne to their homes and then came back to wait with me for the duration. I also know Dr. Strickler needed to get back to his apartment to go into his Spiritual Mode to take care of “things”. Adam made it quite clear that he wasn’t going anywhere until I was on the way home so it was useless for me to tell him to go. They each had to work the next day and it was the big Christmas pageant at Christine’s school so I already knew she had to get up extra early the next morning. Publicly: thanks to you both. Since Christine is more like a sister than a friend and we’ve known each other for over thirty-one years it was not surprising for her to be there for me. But it would have been very easy for Adam to leave. Instead he was the one that made the Sonic run at 11:30 when it occurred to Christine and me that we hadn’t eaten. Off went my knight charging out into the darkness to procure goodies for his two damsels.
Adam did go home after they discharged me at 1:15 AM after helping to bundle me into Christine’s car. Christine and I proceeded to the 24-hour grocery/pharmacy to fill my prescriptions for muscle-relaxers and a painkiller. After a short discussion I agreed that it would be a good idea for her to go in and get the medications. By this time I was cradling an ice pack between my two wrists having been diagnosed with a possible fractured left thumb that was splinted and a badly sprained right thumb and a seat belt contusion on my chest that even made three doctors grimace and say “Oh my”. By the time Christine helped me into the house and opened all my pill bottles, threw down every pillow from the upstairs and made me promise NOT to try the stairs but to sleep downstairs it was 2 AM.
It took me another hour to try to open a box of crackers to take my pills with, figure out how to fill and drink from a cup using the palm of one hand and figure out which fingers on the other hand didn’t hurt, build a nest of pillows and blankets so I could sit sleeping in a chair with my legs up. Ice packs were supported and held in place with more pillows. What an adventure. Clearly being the caregiver is much easier than being the one in need of care. Somewhere along the line my husband called having spent an extra long day working in surgery in San Diego. We chatted a bit and then he asked, “So how was your day?”
Last night Dr. Strickler held Advanced Class at my home. Being accustomed to being independent it was a real struggle to have to ask for someone to get the mail, put up a new bottle of water, put the pitcher of tea in the fridge (managed to fill it by putting a stool under the water dispenser spigot but then couldn’t move it anywhere), etc. Learning to ask for assistance is actually harder than accepting it when offered.
As each day progresses I am finding new sore spots and new bruises but I know I will be fine. Even if my thumb is broken it can be treated and will heal.
Instead of the season for giving, this has been one of receiving for me. May you have the heart and eyes to recognize and accept an opportunity for growth when offered and presented by the Lord of Life.
Blessings to all at this Holy time of year.