God’s Grace Or Dumb Luck, Embrace What You Have

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I almost broke down yesterday…twice.

The first time was in the O.R. at Cornell Medical Center. My daughter, my little girl, was going in for a minor surgical procedure. They let me suit up in fake paper scrubs and a goofy blue shower cap. Then the nurse walked us, hand in sweaty hand to the staging area.

We walked into the O.R. and I could feel my daughter’s grip tighten. She got quiet. As if the bold white walls and bright xeon lights were draining her lightness. But, she was brave and as they laid her on the table, I walked around continuing to hold her hand and trying to joke.

“She’s only 7,” I though, “My God, she’s so much braver than me.”

The anesthesiologist gently placed the mask over her nose and mouth. Her eyes widened. Her brows raised. Her grip tightened. I talked to her, anything to distract her and let her know it was all okay. She pulled her head away, as if to pry it loose from the mask, but the hand that held it there followed her every movement.

“This is normal,” the nurse said, “it’s alright…she’s alright.”

Moments later, she was out. The anesthesiologist turned her head, told me to kiss her cheek and asked me to leave. “What if she wasn’t really out yet?” I wondered, “I didn’t want to go until I knew.”

I kissed her cheek and as I pulled away, I began to tear.

I don’t why, I just did.  This was a minor thing. It’d be over in less than an hour. But, there was my little girl. MY little girl, unconscious on the table.

The nurse asked if I was okay.

They were all so nice. I couldn’t answer her. I knew everything would be okay. But, still, I couldn’t speak without breaking down in the hallway. So, I smiled and nodded a nod the nurse had seen before, knowing it was a lie.

Minutes later, on my way back to the waiting area, two women boarded the elevator. One in her late thirties wearing a scarf over a clearly hairless scalp. The other in her late 50s. They stood looking at each other and as the door closed, the younger one began to tear.

Her mouth quivering as she whispered to her mother, “fuck, man.”

Her mom began to reach out to console her, stopping midway, not knowing what to do or say. Clearly, the news they’d just received was not good. A moment later the door opened, they stepped out and, for the second time that day, I struggled to fight back tears. What a parent wouldn’t do to save their child from pain.

I honestly don’t know who’s at the helm in this life.

I believe in some greater universal energy that unites us all, but I don’t know if I’d describe it as God or assign to it the prescience of some master plan.

But, here’s what I do know.

We have a finite time on this planet to spend playing with, adoring and simply being near those we love. It could be an hour, a decade or a century. There is no certainty.

Nobody plans on being on the short end of the life stick. But, it happens.

Which leaves us with a choice. Spend whatever time we have fully engaged, present and involved in the relationships and experiences that make life worth living. Or, play the odds and hope we’ll have time to connect with those who make us come alive…someday.

I choose today. Won’t you join me?

P.S.—By late afternoon, my daughter sat snuggled between my wife and I on the couch, deep into baked ziti, pizza and ice cream as we watched re-caps of her favorite grown-up swimmer, Michael Phelps, win again last night. No better place to be.

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43 responses

43 responses to “God’s Grace Or Dumb Luck, Embrace What You Have”

  1. The roller coaster of life with children. Glad to hear everything ended well.

    Blessings.

  2. Josh says:

    I’m happy everything worked out.

    You almost teared up? I don’t even have kids (yet) and your story alone nearly made me cry!

    Two things you said made me think of Buddhism. First, the idea that we are all connected is a major theme. I’ve read it described as the whole universe is an ocean and each of us is just a short little wave that we loosely describe as “me”. Second, it makes me think of the idea of doing a “death meditation” where you simply contemplate mortality earnestly. We operate every day like time is infinite. “Oh I’ll do that tomorrow”, “I’ll tell so-and-so I’m sorry next week”, etc etc. Time is very finite and it often takes an event like you had yesterday to bring it out. I think you should savor the feeling you have from it, it will fade undoubtedly. We’re all connected and the vast majority of people don’t think this way so individuals are swept back into the normal drift of the ocean.

    Josh

  3. Jonathan Fields says:

    @ Corey – roller coaster, yes, but so incredibly worth it! 🙂

    @ Josh – I’ve actually studied quite a bit of Buddhism and and very drawn to many aspects of it. Funny, as I was writing this, I also remembered reading about how The Dalai Lama meditates on death many times each day and, far from it being morbid, it’s actually an incredibly life-affirming process that keeps bringing you back to the importance of being present. Thanks for the reminder!

  4. Dave Navarro says:

    All that matters is using the time that you have.

    Some people pack more life into 5 years than most do in 50 when they take this to heart.

  5. Will says:

    Thank you for the reminder of what is truly important in life. I don’t have kids but I do have aging parents who sometimes need medical care. It always pains me to see them weak and frail.

    I think I’m going to call my parents right now.

  6. Karen Swim says:

    Jonathan, I am so glad your daughter is okay and don’t envy you the moments she was in that OR. I thank you for the reminder that life should be lived and savored. We should not, cannot put loved ones and living “on hold” until we have time in our day planner. So often we get it wrong, believing the point of our day is to earn a living rather than have a life. Earning is the tool that allows us to live but what good is it if we never stop to enjoy and cherish the things and people that really count?

  7. Laurie says:

    Jonathan,
    Your heart is so tender and genuine. I do belive there is a God in the universe who is involved in our lives. Maybe he is pursuing you?

  8. Winnie Lim says:

    Funny how synchronicity works sometimes. I just started listening to Oprah’s podcast with Eckhart Tolle, the author of ‘The Power of Now’, today. He basically writes about the same concept, how we are all one, and how all of us waste a lot of time everyday either feeling guilty of the past and worrying about the future.

    If we can all can see the bare fact that it’s 50/50 whether we’ll be dead or alive tomorrow or even the next second, then perhaps we’ll all learn to live in the moment. Just like how the movie Kungfu Panda has this quote, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift, that’s why it is called the Present.”

  9. Chef Keem says:

    Thank you for a beautiful and sad story, Jonathan. It tells a lot about your good heart.

    As I get older and think more about my own upcoming transition, I try to become more conscious about two things:

    First, say “I love you” whenever you feel it. Don’t hesitate. And act on it, too.

    Secondly, our transition into the next realms of our eternal existence will be much more peaceful and beautiful than we could ever imagine from our current third-dimensional mindset.

  10. Shama Hyder says:

    I bet you are such a super dad Jonathan! What a lucky little girl.

    I don’t have kids-yet. Do have a puppy (recent addition) and I go NUTS at the vet. Why does he NEED those shots? Can’t that be made easier? What’s the best food?

    Love-it’s a crazy thing.

  11. Monica says:

    I’m glad to hear all is well with your daughter. Your post today deeply moved me. There is some more living to be done. Thank you.

  12. riva says:

    Of course we’ll join you. Staying present is one of the most difficult things to do in life, but it’s also the most rewarding!

  13. Henrik says:

    A wonderful and sad post, Jonathan. Thank you for sharing.

  14. Amy Brucker says:

    I’m with Josh – made me more than “tear up”!

    It’s really easy for me to get tangled up in what I call “the weeds of life.” But, being present is a great “weed killer”, and even though I’ve studied bits of Buddhism, it wasn’t until I read Tolle’s book that I really “got” the importance of being present.

    I resonate with so much of what’s being said here. Thanks for sharing such personal stories.

    As an aside:

    Your title “God’s grace or dumb luck” and words “I don’t know who’s at the helm” reminded me of an interesting article I read (Baylor University) about research stats on how there are essentially 4 Gods in America. Or rather, 4 primary views about what God “is.” Here they are:

    • 31.4 percent believe in an Authoritarian God, who is very judgmental and engaged
    • 25 percent believe in a Benevolent God, who is not judgmental but engaged
    • 23 percent believe in a Distant God, who is completely removed
    • 16 percent believe in a Critical God, who is judgmental but not engaged

    Interesting.

  15. Dear Jonathan –

    One of the requirement of being a great communicator – and a great writer is to connect –
    and bring your reader in with you.

    You really let us in here, Jonathan. Thanks. I was with you every inch of this story. it was my story – my child.

    Thank God “our” child is fine.

    I am grateful.

  16. Jonathan Fields says:

    Hey Everyone, thanks for your wonderful comments. I have a saying that I try to live by, though not always successfully.

    Learn from the past, envision the future, but live in the moment.

    Sounds so simple, but we all know just how brutally hard it can be. Still, it’s worth to effort to come as close as we can!

  17. Lisa Benner says:

    Yes.

  18. Peter James says:

    The future is a mystery and the past is history. Living for now is the only option.

  19. MacK says:

    Jonathan –

    This was a really awesome post, man. Gave me chills when I was done reading it. Just wanted to let you know. Glad to hear everything went well, and I certainly agree with everything you said today.
    Cheers

  20. Ben says:

    That post was GREATNESS! From my experience, there is a universal loving presence in all of us. I say that have gone half a century through challenges, mistakes, and heart rendering losses. And, Yes, it is damn hard at times to acknowledge that until some point of time in the future.

    So, the humanity and vulnerability motivates us to extend an open hand, and then amazingly enough, despite whatever is going on, someone reaches over and grabs it. This beats times 10 (when looking back) all those times I shined because I had the answer.

    Embracing Our Humanity!
    Ben

  21. Glad your daughter’s okay. Beautiful post. Just beautiful.

    Kelly@SHE-POWER

  22. […] if the personal was separated entirely from the business. I feel touched and honoured to read a post like this, which is so personal, and yet Jonathan Fields’ to me is a “business contact” (in the sense […]

  23. Lance says:

    I’m glad everything went well for your daughter. Life events like this can be tough.

    It reminds me of a time we “lost” our daughter at a state park for about 15 minutes. She was about six. It was the longest 15 minutes of my life. And it made me realize the importance of the time (quality time) we have with our loved ones. We have the power to decide how we spend our time.

    Wonderfully written article.

  24. Good grief, Jonathan. Could I love you any more? This was spectacular. I could have read your words about this day for an hour.

    • Keenan says:

      But then that would have been an hour you could have spent with your kids. And that would have accomplished just the opposite of what Jonathan was suggesting. 🙂

  25. Oh my gosh. This is so beautiful and so very true. Thank you for the reminder.

  26. Your words are powerful Jonathan…”Or, play the odds and hope we’ll have time to connect with those who make us come alive…someday.” Someday… I’ve never been able to fully explain the actions of the people who matter the most to the two little people in my life who have waited, longed for and wondered, why? It was always… not this weekend, but maybe next month and I’ll plan a long holiday vacation, we’ll catch up then. We have next summer right? It was never enough for the now grown people in my life for whom it doesn’t seem to matter so much these days. I hope they will love differently when they have the chance, I did my best to love them fully and share my presence with them. Sometimes in the face of a void, a heart will close and that’s sad. I echo your call to be present! Your a good dad Jonathan…glad you get it! Happy you are all doing well. Blessings.

  27. Justin says:

    That was quite an emotional post. I don’t have children, and never will, but I cannot imagine the intensity of emotion that comes with situations like this one (the surgery). Crazy stuff.

  28. Beautifully written example of both the joys and fears of parents. I hope I never have to go through that with my daughter.

    Best wishes,

    Nik

  29. […] of what you are grateful for. Go on, do it right now. There is so much we have to be thankful for. Check out this post at Awake At the Wheel for a dose of inspiration and gratitude. photo credit: […]

  30. starrlife says:

    I’ve been right there. Our daughter has had numerous surgeries and each time I cry a bit when I have to leave her anesthesized little body in surgery! She’s only eight now and starting to understand what it’s about but still I cry….

  31. Susi says:

    I’m glad your daughter is okay. So many things people said resonated with me…I have that same image as Josh of the universe being an ocean and the wave is simply my time to individuate (a tiny bit.) I meditate on death as suggested by Thich Nhat Hanh although it took me a long time to work up the nerve…it initially seemed too horrible. But it really makes me appreciate things more. My 19 yo son crashed his car two days ago and was completely unhurt. When I went to get stuff out of it at the junkyard, I started crying – not tearing up – really crying. The hood and some of the engine had protruded far into the front seat passenger side. If someone had been with him…or if he had been hit on the other side…I’m just grateful for the horrible things that didn’t happen.
    Namaste.

  32. Very inspirational post. I’m glad your daughter is doing fine.

  33. It’s true, we can only be certain of the present. If something is really important to us, we should not let it depend on “someday”, because someday never really comes.

  34. […] God’s Grace Or Dumb Luck, Embrace What You Have – I almost broke down yesterday…twice. The first time was in the O.R. at Cornell Medical Center. My daughter, my little girl, was going in for a minor surgical procedure. They let me suit up in fake paper scrubs and a goofy blue shower cap. Then the nurse walked us, hand in … […]

  35. Keenan says:

    The emotional nature of this post was great. I thought of my own girls, 3 of them. We don’t know how long so we have to take advantage, but as my wife says it’s a balance. We can’t always be there and we can’t ignore the other demands for our time and attention.

    The key is to be present where we are and ask the tough question. Is what I’m doing now really that important. At times the answer will be yes, other times, it could just be no. That’s when you should stop.

  36. Debbie Ferm says:

    I relate to you in this post, as I’ve been in that position, but I wonder for the mother of the young woman in the elevator. Can you imagine the pain of that? It makes me wonder if I would survive it. I’m sending good thoughts to them wherever they may be.

  37. This is the best line:

    “Which leaves us with a choice. Spend whatever time we have fully engaged, present and involved in the relationships and experiences that make life worth living.”

    What a powerful story, Jonathan. Thank you for sharing. Unless they are impacted by an event such as this, most people need to hear this message over and over again before they actually take it to heart.

    Life is precious and every moment is a gift. It is not until we truly live this message, that we are fully present and living. Keep up the great work and btw- so glad everything turned out ok with your daughter! 😉

  38. […] of what you are grateful for. Go on, do it right now. There is so much we have to be thankful for. Check out this post at Awake At the Wheel for a dose of inspiration and […]

  39. […] of what you are grateful for. Go on, do it right now. There is so much we have to be thankful for. Check out this post at Awake At the Wheel for a dose of inspiration and […]

  40. […] of what you are grateful for. Go on, do it right now. There is so much we have to be thankful for. Check out this post at Awake At the Wheel for a dose of inspiration and […]

  41. […] of what you are grateful for. Go on, do it right now. There is so much we have to be thankful for. Check out this post at Awake At the Wheel for a dose of inspiration and […]