The Fickle Hand of Fate

The fickle hand of fate has not been idle.  One cousin, K,  recently passed (last week).  Another cousin, D,  is dealing with a double mastectomy recovery.  One of my husband's colleagues (with whom I graduated with from high school), has not yet emerged to consciousness following surgery ten days ago.

The fickle hand of fate can finger any of us at any time, for good or naught. Over time, none escape its grasp==and sometimes it is a double fisted grab and shake.

K's death resulted from complications of a brain shunt blockage.  I think of her as my 'little cousin'.  There was 5 years age difference between us, and as kids that is a large differential--not so much now being 5 decades and change old.  Nevertheless, the imprint in the brain is from those many years ago when she was baby then toddler, then child in my child hood memories.

I have a very vivid memory of K being but a young child and being in a full body cast at one of our family reunions.  Here was this tow-headed, bright blue-eyed child swaddled in a cast. But cast or no, she was immersed in all activities--not shuttered away, or overly protected.

She was born with spina bifida, hence requiring the shunt, and the surgeries, and the arm braces and the wheel chair.  But she never let that tether her spirit nor inhibit her independence. The shunt was required to drain brain fluid.  Recently it had become blocked, and necessary surgery not completed in time to negate the ill effects of the built up pressure in her brain.  Prior to surgery she coded three times. In my aunt's relaying that information to one of my uncles, he interpreted it, and then it was communicated that she had died.

I harbored a hope that once she awakened from surgery, there would be a great laugh about the mixup.  Unfortunately, she never awakened from the surgery.  No laughs, just tears as the family awaited results of brain tests which confirmed that she had suffered irreversible brain stem injury from some combination of the coding and the pressure build from the excess fluid. She was taken off of life support and she died peacefully surrounded by her family.

Despite her health circumstances, my aunt and uncle ensured that she led a life that enriched her and allowed her to flourish.  She worked for 20 years as a receptionist for a nearby nursing home. She was wry and witty, and she touched the lives of all that she met.

 She has always been my hero, as are her parents who created a loving, supportive home for her. Once off to college, then family, profession, I only saw her during infrequent family reunions.  Fortunately we had one just last fall.

I was able to spend some time at the hospital with her and my aunt and uncle and the many friends that came to visit. I saw K's brother, T, for the first time in decades and met his wife and one of his daughters. He has three children (I met one) and grandchildren.  My other cousin,  D, recovering from a double mastectomy sat with me for a couple of hours as we talked to our aunt who was enduring--with grace, courage and humor--the insufferable wait to determine the MRI tests.  

So even though I have few adult memories as our lives went different ways, I still feel close to my cousins. And as we get older and slog our way through life often we are reconnected by the gravitational pull of life's significant events.  These events serve as a galvanizing force that quickly aligns our orbits harmonically so that we be a mini universe of love and support for all of the heavenly bodies that converge.

But only for a short time.  The gravitational pull of life's ordinary requirements quickly suck us back in.  We must feed the dogs; cut the grass; go to work; and make our way in life.  But the power of our connections with others ensure that when we are fingered by fate for a life transitions,--birth, marriage, divorce, health issues, death--the heavenly bodies of our friends an families will enter our orbit to see us through such a transition be it a fleeting or permanent one.

My husband's colleague is perhaps the most tragic of all of these events.  Undergoing surgery to correct spinal stenosis, he apparently suffered a stroke during the operation.  He's my age.  He has not recovered consciousness, and has had to be moved to another hospital.  He's the primary breadwinner, and this circumstance is becoming a dire one in so many ways. 

It's not hard to look about and cultivate perspective when we feel consumed with the troubles of life.


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