In December 2018 I had no idea how my life was about to change and how everything would become clearer. All because of the unexpected, challenging and wonder-filled time with my oldest son when he was hospitalized.
Two years ago, my son Jackson, then aged 5, was admitted to Sick Kids Hospital for a perforated appendix and although not normally a serious condition, resulted in a stay of 31 days across 5 different visits and 2 surgeries.
31 days where my emotions were a rollercoaster – fear, worry, exhaustion from my husband and I taking turns sleeping in the hospital room with a nurse coming in every 1-2 hours, guilt from thinking he had a stomach bug in the beginning when in fact his appendix had perforated, guilt from knowing my 3 year old son was at home without understanding the situation. Further exhaustion as it was Christmas time and there was still so much to do but yet so much was unknown. Sadness as my husband and I cancelled our ten-year anniversary trip to Costa Rica we had planned with our best friends. But also, peace. Slowness. Stillness. Presence.
The hustle of life was gone in an instant. For those 31 days, everything paused except one thing – being a Mom. I was a Mom to my eldest who was constantly poked and prodded while he underwent 2 surgeries and I was a Mom to my youngest who couldn’t understand what was happening and even asked me during one heartbreaking moment if his brother was going to die. I was a Mom. Not a wife, a working professional, a mentor, a boss, a sister, a daughter, a friend. Mom. And I embraced it fully.
During our time at the hospital I saw the world through my 5-year old’s eyes and suddenly everything started to change. My son taught me to be more adventurous by exploring all areas of the hospital after visiting hours ended and the hospital became eerily quiet. Not following the rules makes me anxious but I loved his sense of curiosity as we explored hallways and different rooms. He reminded me that helping others, even with the tiniest of gestures, can make a huge impact. He made it his mission to ensure his nurses had a great day by telling them how great they were or through sharing one of his jokes to bring a smile to their faces. He also made it his mission to help other patients, like a 9-year-old girl down the hall who didn’t want to eat or walk after surgery but would visit and encourage her to do both. I was awestruck by my son who never complained but rather looked at what contribution he could make during his stay. It reminded me that holidays aren’t about the number of perfectly wrapped gifts under the tree or cooking an elaborate meal but rather the people you spend it with and being thankful for what you have.
But of all the moments from our time at the hospital the one that hit me hardest occurred as my son was about to go under for his first surgery. As I stood there, just him and me, feeling completely anxious and stressed on the inside but trying to hold it together on the outside, Jackson looked at me with his bright eyes and said: “Just remember Mom, be brave and always be yourself,” I took a deep breath and thought: “who exactly is teaching who?”
I am grateful to both of my kids for all they are teaching me. And I’m grateful for realizing this while it’s not too late.
When we are chasing the next dream, we can sometimes forget all the gifts of the present. Like taking the time to look under a log for a salamander or watching the leaves falling off the trees slowly drifting through the air. Taking the time to feel my sons’ hands in mine as I walk them to school and enjoy that precious time together rather than rushing them to get there only thinking about what’s coming up next in my schedule. These are the moments I want to cherish. And this is why I started this journey to living a happier, healthier and more fulfilling life on my Path to Presence.
I invite you to follow my Path to Presence journey here where I’ll be sharing stories and lessons I’ve learned and continue to learn along the way in the hopes that it might help you as we all learn to navigate our maps of life.