This past month at work I did something I have never done before, I started crying in a room with a patient. While some of you might not find this a big deal, in the medical world crying is for pansies. Yet, I couldn't help it as I listened to my attending tell a 79 year-old woman and her husband that the cancer she had was unresectable, and that the only hope she had was with chemotherapy and radiation. I will never forget as the woman with misty blue eyes looked up and said profoundly with all seriousness, " I have lived a beautiful life. God has been good to me. I have been married for 53 years and we have been through a lot together and we will get through this. I thank you but I am not interested in chemotherapy or radiation." I couldn't help but let the tears run down my face as I watched her husband grasp her hand, with tears in his own eyes as they looked at each other. I could tell they were talking to each other without even uttering a word. I walked away from the room not only stunned by the intimacy of the moment I just shared with this couple, but also left pondering if I would ever know the depths of this kind of love.
With all the Valentine's Day hype surrounding us it is hard to remember that love is more than a heart shaped box of chocolate or long stem roses, but is one of the most basic and essential emotions that we all need and deserve. Yet, this Valentine's Day, my heart did sink a little as I went to mailbox and discovered that I hadn't gotten any valentines. Now, I of all people understand that many of my friends are too busy to make V-day cards, as I am just as guilty. I think the real disappointment though was that there was no card from my grandmother this year. As many of you know my grandmother passed away almost a year ago, but to me it seems just like yesterday. My grandmother has this magical way of making sure a card came for me on every holiday, and she was especially sensitive to Valentine's day since I was her boyfriendless granddaughter. She believed that everyone should feel loved.
The truth is my grandmother is still teaching me about the depths of love to this day. What you might not know about my grandmother is that she passed away in my bed in my house. Her suitcase still sits in the same spot in the corner of my room to this day. I am ashamed to admit that sometimes in the quiet of my old house, when the rest of the world is sleeping, I will creep from my bed and I will sit next to my grandmother's suitcase. I will slowly open the old zipper of the tapestry bag and reach in just to pick up one sweater of hers. I just sit there breathing in the fragrance, which is a combination of dove soap and onions. This causes rockets of memories of my grandmother to shoot across my mind. I know it might be immature of me; but what I have learned is that pain is the price we pay sometimes for loving so deeply.
Yet, recently I have been trying to make a whole lot of life decisions about my future career and my life in general. It is in these last weeks that I have had to be blatantly honest with myself and in the end the things I want most are love and happiness. I want to experience the love that the man and woman in the doctor's office had that day. I want to experience the type of relationship my grandmother and I had with my grandchildren. I want life to be beautiful. It is terrifying for me to think how far I have come. The high strung, type A personality, driven by success person that I used to be has been converted to a person who just wants to experience and take in as much life as possible. Thus, you can understand my disappointment as one of the men in my class told me how disappointed he was in me that I was settling in general surgery and not going for neurosurgery. I kindly tried to explain to him that I had done some soul searching and had decided that I loved my life too much to make the sacrifice of neurosurgery. I will never forget as he looked at me with all seriousness and said "Jen, life is overrated." I am sure the horrified look on my face said it all as I looked him dead in the eye and said, "No sir, no its not."
Thus in closing I want to share the quote that my yoga instructor shared with me tonight that pretty much was the final inspiration for this blog. While we were lying on our mats, in sheer darkness, she quoted Maya Angelou and said, "In life people will not remember the things you say, nor will they remember the things you have done, but they will remember the way you have made them feel." Thus this week I encourage you to go out and show others your love, may it shine through like the sun on a hot summer day, because giving love can be just as satisfying as receiving. Happy February. XOXO