A HEARTBEAT FROM DEATH.
So today I spoke with the lovely, vibrant, smart, savvy writer pal--an incredibly accomplished woman-- from long ago, Kathy Higgins. I met Kathy at a poetry class taught by ol' Thomas Fuller(rest his soul), in 1997. Thomas was an original member of The Usual Suspects at the old B & N Booksellers on Ashford-Dunwoody. When I signed up for a class through GSU held at Perimeter, I was not told who the instructor was. When I showed up early for the first class, I was stunned to discover it was taught by this fellow I'd met at the Open-Mics held by B & N. Thomas was well-known in fiction circles for his many books for young men, which he co-wrote with his writing partner, Brad Strickland.
Thomas singled out my very first poem, "Sea Life", read it to the entire class, and spoke glowingly about the eroticism/bisexuality inherent in the poem. He inspired me to write more, in fact, he commanded that I write more. This world lost Thomas to a sudden stroke, in the fall of 2002. He was driving one of his sons from school, when he suddenly drove through a red light, and into a house. No one was injured in the house, but his son was injured. Thomas had suffered a stroke, and never regained consciousness. I remember thinking at his funeral, How does this happen? How does someone so lively, so intelligent, so, well, necessary for us, just leave? Since then, I've unfortunately lost many people (and I'd lost several before that, too). What makes losing people so unbearable is the potential seemingly "lost" to some other place, some void we cannot see, we cannot access.
My friend Kathy was detailing her recent experience of attending a wedding with her husband, and telling him she suddenly felt warm, and lightheaded, a bit dizzy,"I'm going to pass out..." And she did. Just like that. But this was no mere fainting spell. This was not some Southern-style, humidity-influenced "vapors".
Kathy's heart. had. stopped. As the vows were being exchanged during this wedding in Cumming Georgia, a woman who works as a chaplain at a local Catholic hospital came to Kathy's aid, prayed for her. Kathy was revived, and her husband of course, insisted she go to the hospital(believe it or not, Kathy was reluctant to do so!). At Northside Hospital's Forsyth branch, she was told she'd suffered from severe arrythmia, and her heart had stopped. Just like that. She needed a Pacemaker. Right away. So she's got a pacemaker implanted, just like my Dad(who's nearly 72) does.
So I'm sitting in my kitchen, listening to Kathy, 54, tell me how she's now thankful for every moment, and she describes the feeling of traveling down a dark tunnel, no light, just darkness, and how scary that part was, but that she's not afraid of death. And how she knows she's "here for a reason", and I agree. And I keep thinking that more than simply believing we are here for a reason, it's up to each of us to discover--to decide, really, what that reason is. Whether we consider ourselves "spiritual" or not, death--and its ever-present reality, is indeed the great equalizer. Sooner or later--it will come. And we better embrace, enjoy, and be grateful. Everyday.
And I turn to Kathy and say "When my Dad(who's suffered three heart attacks--the last one, "fatal", but he was revived also), says he has seen death, well, he's 21 years older, he had several attacks....but you're a peer, and it's very surreal to hear you say you felt this...Imean, you've got so much you're going to do."
I remind her about her wish to do ceramics, to have her own kiln, a cabin in the woods, etc. And she looks at me, and I say "I mean, you still want that, don't you? I mean, you're always DOING something--you do more than anyone I know. Everytime I see you, it's something new."(indeed, I tell Kathy that just in the time I've known her, she has worked for IBM, completed her MBA, become certified in Feng Shui, gotten her real estate license, learned to make homemade soap, completed the Peachtree Road Race--multiple times, and been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul, Volume 4.)
She answered simply " I just want to be thankful, Lisa. I don't have to DO anything."
"You mean, you can just BE?" I asked, not seeing the Zen inherent in such a question, and response.
"Yes, actually," and she smiled that winning smile of hers.
So what's all this about? Awareness. And timing. There's never been a better time, kids, to be aware. Of time. Because there's really never, ever, going to be enough of it.
We all gotta make the most of it, while we have it. The thing I learned today is that maybe making the most of it means, enjoying it by BEING.... Not "accomplishing" by "Doing", but "accomplishing", just by BEING.
Have a great Monday night, and a bright Tuesday.