WENDY ELLIOTT: Spirit of the season

Wendy Elliott
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“The first wealth is health.”

-- Ralph Waldo Emerson


We all know that it is better to enjoy good health than riches - you can't enjoy any amount of wealth while in bad health. This self-evident truth has been impressed upon me since a family member had heart surgery in late November month.

We’d been waiting for a date for my husband’s surgery for a several months. It got bumped a few times and the breathing difficulty that was symptomatic became more pronounced. You find yourself living on the edge of anxiety.

A date was finally set. Plans were made for transportation and prayers were said. Fortunately, on the given day, a kindly surgeon took the time to call and explain how the six hours in the operating room went.

I found myself sitting in the family waiting room outside the intensive care unit, grateful to have a son with me. We listened to a man talking on the phone. His wife had been behind those closed doors for 18 days and wasn’t getting better. We averted our eyes when a trio of relatives came out wiping tears away. Surgery waiting rooms are distilleries for emotions.

I was immediately appreciative for a raft of friends who dog-sat while I made Halifax hospital visits. One friend came, parked her laptop for a while and walked the dogs. Others arrived, obliged the pooches and went. Work was allowed to take a back seat for those days.

Our patient fared well with expert attention. After six days, he came home, a little wobbly, but with his heart valve fully repaired. Then, just as he started to perk up, an infection in an incision set him back. Our family doc, Wayne Phillips, paid not one, but two house calls and the surgeon responded to e-mail questions within an hour.

Friends rallied around. We had some amazing meals delivered to the door – chicken stew, bread pudding, humus, apple crisp and more. Two of our daughter’s friends brought over soup and biscuits.

A brother-in-law made it his role to fill the wood box and chop kindling. Visits, phone calls, cards and messages made the patient feel like his well-being was valued.

Then, dual blizzards struck, and the neighbours stepped up. One steered his snow blower around the driveway and another came twice with a shovel to reduce the weight of whiteness.

I felt like Christmas had already arrived at our house with such goodness manifest in friends and family members. When you are healthy, it is hard to imagine the struggle that daily life can be. As energy returns, breathing fresh air and walking through a blanket of snow produces joy.

A Latin poet once said life is not merely being alive, but being well. May your heart be lighter this year, with friends, family and good health.

Organizations: Halifax hospital

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