Notes from a Sick-Bed

keep calm and get a flu shotI was sick last week. O.M.G. I had the flu. It was a sudden onset such as I had never experienced in my life. One minute I was fine, and the next I was asking someone, “Are you cold?” And within minutes, I was shivering and shaking as if I was sitting in a snow bank with no coat on. It was an unnatural kind of cold that felt like I had ice water running through my veins. I didn’t know what was wrong; but I knew, for sure, that something was not right.

I learned later that there is a strain of flu which is presenting in that manner for a lot of people. In fact, as I sat in Urgent Care, a gentleman came in and I heard him tell the receptionist he was cold and it was “not normal.” I knew exactly what he meant.

For the first three or four days, I hardly thought at all, about anything. I just wanted to sleep as much as I could, so I wouldn’t be aware of how badly I felt. But, as the worst of it passed, and I entered the I’m-still-sick-but-I-have-stopped-begging-God-to-heal-me-or-take-me phase, I was inundated with thoughts about the importance of good health to the quality of our lives. I was humbled as I repented for taking my health for granted. I apologized to myself and began forgiving myself for the ways in which I have knowingly abused my body over the years. I confessed to God that I could do much better when it comes to taking care of my body. I could eat better. I could eat less. I could turn some weekly treats into monthly treats. I could exercise.

I spent those days dragging pillows and blankets from my bed to my sofa - back and forth - and I found myself praising God that I could do that. I sat with memories of my father, who was completely bedridden for the last two years of his life. He had to be lifted and carried from the bed to the sofa - when his bed linens were changed -and that was enough to completely exhaust him.

I thought about friends ... who are battling much worse and more life-disrupting and life-threatening illnesses than the flu.

I thought about friends, people I know or know of, who are battling much worse and more life-disrupting and life-threatening illnesses than the flu. I thought of people who suffer with chronic severe pain and illness. I thought of those who - unlike me - could not be fairly sure that their suffering would pass in a few more days.

I was humbled. I was convicted. I was profoundly grateful. I still am.

I was also reminded, during this time with the flu, of how uplifting it is to hear from people who care. My heart was touched by every text, email, telephone, and Facebook message. Particularly since I live alone, and spent most of that sick time alone (except when I was at Urgent Care getting IV fluids to combat dehydration), it really made a difference to know that people were concerned about me, and were praying for me. Though I heard from people from all parts of my life, I want to give a special shout-out to Imani. God used you to bless me with your expressions of concern and offers of care. Thank you!!!

I am back at work today (Thank you, Jesus!) and have come through being sick with a few words of advice, for those inclined to listen. Here they are:

1. Take good care of your body. You only get one and, no matter what you do (or don’t do) nature will eventually take its course. But, in the meantime, give yourself the gift of health-promoting and health-sustaining care. The condition of your body absolutely does impact the quality of your life.

2. Be good to the people you know who are sick. The phone calls (even if not answered), the voice mail messages, the texts, etc., all matter. Being sick is one of the loneliest experiences we have because, even if we’re surrounded by people, the sick person is usually the only one who is sick. In that sense, s/he suffers alone. Often, though, the sick among us actually live alone. So hearing from people who care matters tremendously.

3. While you are taking better care of your body, be sure to nurture your spirit as well. I thought a lot about my parents while I was sick. My father died after a prolonged illness. My mother just dropped dead during an otherwise perfectly normal day. I don’t whether I will die suddenly or experience a final illness. But here is what I do know - it is certain that our spirits survive our bodies. If it should be my lot to experience my body being progressively weakened and finally overcome by illness or injury, I want my spirit to be strong during that journey. I want my relationships with myself, with God, and with my loved ones to be peaceful and full of love. I want to have forgiven everybody for everything. I want to know that it is well with my soul.

So my take-away from the whole experience is to do better at taking care of myself; to appreciate, as never before, what a blessing it is just to feel well and to be able to do every single thing I can do; and to nurture my spirit, so that when the time comes, my spirit will be able transcend physical infirmities until it is ready to take flight to where they no longer exist.