We are all well aware of the big health issues, of how we should exercise and eat right and watch our waist size and alcohol intake. But sometimes in those in-between moments, we forget just how fleeting and precious our health really is.
And then an essay comes along that reminds me. Last week, Dan Shapiro wrote a painful and beautiful essay for Salon about the moments leading up to his wife's breast cancer diagnosis. They were moments filled with household drudgery -- fixing the garbage disposal, dealing with his daughter's braces, but by the end of the day, they were something else entirely.
"I should have enjoyed the banter as I pulled into the hot-tub store, laughed more when the disposal died, welcomed the chance to stand in an orthodontist's office consumed with the cost of straight white teeth.
"But I didn't. I am not arrogant enough to believe that the universe recognized my need to learn another lesson about maintaining perspective, not spiritual enough to see it as part of some higher power's plan. Instead I just sank to my knees and wished I had embraced those micro-moments more, saw them for what they are -- the threads of my life. My good life."
In that devastating final paragraph, Shapiro shares what so many of us forget: There is nothing that's more important than health.
We get lost in these moments of frustration with family, the times the kids are whiny and won't go to sleep; the times the roof leaks; or the times the tires go flat because your wife drives into a pot hole just because the guy in front of her was going too slow and you only find out about it because she feels the need to confess on a public website and assumes you will forgive her because of the context.
We need to take stock and remember and be grateful for our health and everything about our bodies that are often too fat, too flat, too flabby, too pale, too anything. Because once our health is at stake, none of that other stuff matters.
I can remember the moments before my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, too. I was 12 and I remember I ate five fruit roll-ups while I was waiting for them to come home from the doctor. I remember winding them around my thumb and then sucking it because by then I was "too old" to suck my thumb, but somehow the fruit roll-up made it OK.
I can also remember the moments after and crying in my mom's lap and the fact that I had no idea then that the disease would kill her less than five years from that day. And even though I remember all that, I still lose my perspective sometimes (OK, almost all the time).
So, thank you to Dan Shapiro for that reminder. Here's to my health and that of all my family and yours, too. I truly hope that his wife is on the road to recovery.
And here's to great writing that helps us remember the important things.
What does this essay make you think about?
Image via stevendepolo/Flickr