Perhaps the reason for all of this – the trauma suffered, the shock recovered, the falling apart and the knitting back together again – was simply so I could learn this truth: That I really am worth far more than I have known.
I am just starting to grasp this. And this beautiful self-awareness lives in the small minutes of the day. Like surrendering to an excellent piece of music. Or deciding to wear pink and a lot of lace just because I want to.
At the end of the day, these are the moments that define us.
I am worthy. I get it now. That awareness is like a gentle blooming in my soul; a waking up. It is a coming to terms with the extraordinary abundance in life.
You wouldn’t expect such an outcome from a death as ‘senseless’ as Teal’s. But then, why wouldn’t you? Because when God strikes in such untoward ways, life gets turned on its ear. And so we get to look at its underbelly, right there, undeniable in front of us.
Which makes Teal’s death far from senseless.
I know that underbelly intimately now. Been lying right next to it, cheek pressed tight, smelling its earthy funk and realizing moment by moment that I am no longer afraid of it. In fact, there is something important and real about this underbelly. It seems to hold many answers.
And so I have spent the better part of the last year working my way through all of these questions – the questions of an entire lifetime — compelled by Teal’s death. As if the rest of my life will be a beautiful work of art, dedicated to her memory. So I’d better make it the very best it can possibly be.
Which includes surrendering completely to joy.
I have no choice. God is looking me square in the face, and so I must comply. And I have succeeded in getting back to this place of recognition, this understanding of my own worthiness.
I know this is so because of something that just happened. When a bat woke me from my sleep recently I found myself in a medical dilemma. The Public Health protocol is to administer the rabies vaccine, in the event that a) the bat bit you and b) you didn’t know it because you were asleep. And oh, yes, c) that bat might be rabid.
The rabies vaccine, a once draconian measure that included 16 excruciating shots into the abdomen, has improved. But like all things medical in America the price is exorbitant. I found it would cost my entire insurance deductible – $4000 – mostly due to a single $5000 shot into the site of the bite upon arrival at the Emergency Room.
Mind you, the bat may not have bitten me at all. But if it did, (leaving its tiny, barely detectable, mosquito-like bite) … and it was rabid … well, I’m dead — after a whole lot of frothing at the mouth, and that’s just for starters.
PS. According to The Washington Post the shots make you feel like lying on the couch for three weeks in a fluish stupor.
So I prayed about this. Was I ‘worth’ $4000 and a whole lot of pain and suffering?
It was as if Spirit was testing me. Was I ready to declare my worth in monetary measure? And was I worth the piece of mind the vaccine would bring?
At first, I went with my old instincts; I ignored the whole thing. Then a friend brought up the protocol. “You might want to get them,” she advised.
I hemmed and hawed for two days, going back and forth over the pros and cons. Finally I started making calls to the Public Health department. And once again, God guided me.
I found a physician’s assistant in the local hospital who was a knowledgeable expert on rabies. I collected more and more facts like a parched traveller in the desert, heading for the oasis.
And in the end, I was still confused. Part of me wanted to stay stuck in the old paradigm, toughing it out, refusing help. Blowing off the whole thing.
Then I started calling friends for advice, and that’s when everything came apart. My friend Maureen put it simply, “If you go to the hospital, don’t go alone.”
Oh for God’s sake! I thought … Okay! Fine! I’ll surrender! I’ll just do the damn thing. But I’ll be damned if I take anyone with me, because I’m a tough guy.
Or so I thought.
Maureen’s words rung through my head after I hung up. ‘Don’t go alone.’ The thought flustered me. I couldn’t possibly ask someone to go with me … could I? What would be in it for them? How could I presume that someone would do this just for me?
Wasn’t I capable of doing this alone?
Well, of course I was. But having someone there was the sort of support I would never have asked for in the past. I set off for the hospital willfully alone. But then halfway there, I turned around and went home.
I pulled into my driveway and started calling people. Two were not home. Good.
I could do this alone. I’d always done these things alone.
I flipped back to a text I’d gotten earlier from my housemate, Jeewon, asking me what I was doing that afternoon. Jeewon is a 27-year-old Korean American, a dear soul with a young heart. She had a day off from her job in retail.
Jeewon could go with me. I hesitated. I couldn’t ask her … could I?
And that’s when my fears began to flood me, and so I dissolved into tears. I was scared. I did need help, and it was indeed safe to ask a good friend. And she agreed, God bless her.
By 4:30 Jeewon and I were navigating the corridors of the hospital. By 5:00 an ER doctor determined I did not need the $5000 shot but only the less expensive vaccine. (Total cost $1500.) By 5:45 we were on our way to have Pho, my arm only slightly sore and the shot nothing more than a pin prick.
Just having Jeewon’s reassuring presence there beside me was comfort enough. And so the greatest lesson was learned: that I am worth caring for intimately. And that that there are others in my world who would like nothing more than to offer support.
“I mean, you’d do this for me sometime, right?” asked Jeewon as we made our way back out through the hospital labyrinth.
Yes, Jee, yes. With all my heart.