This morning, my friend with a collapsed lung was posting on Facebook from her hospital bed. I sent her a FB message asking if she wanted me to bring her a chai tea. She said sure, since she needed to walk some.
Happily, the local Starbucks opens at 6, so I could get her tea and get to the hospital. We sat in the family lounge until exhaustion overtook her. I helped the nurse get her back to bed, and I drove home.
I reflected on how many Christmas holidays I've had that have seen me going back and forth to the hospital--or in the case of my grandmother's Dec. 2011 illness, getting reports from family members.
On this day in 2004, I'd have been getting back from spending part of the night in the hospital with my mother-in-law who had fallen and broken her hip. She would not recover, and some part of me had a glimmering of that. But the doctor wanted to do a hip replacement, as did she, and so on Christmas Eve, they did the operation. She picked up an infection somewhere along the line and never recovered, although she would not actually die until April of 2005.
It's sobering to realize how many deaths begin in a fall and a hip break. One of my mother-in-law's doctors said, "We come into the world through the birth canal, and we often leave it through the femoral neck." It's those hips that hold us when we're in the womb, but it's those same hips that leave us vulnerable as older people. Half the people who have a hip break will be dead a year later--and those who survive don't face good odds for survival in the next 5 years.
In mid-December of 2001, my mother-in-law fell and broke her shoulder. She made a mostly full recovery, but we spent those holidays trying to help. As I've said before, she was never an easy patient. I was at her condo building trying to help her into the car to go to the doctor. One of her friends scolded me for letting her go out in "cold" weather in her shorts. I said that it was 70 degrees which was summer weather in most places. What I didn't want to talk about: the struggle to help her into any kind of clothes, and so shorts were easier than long pants.
It was this experience trying to help her and realizing how weak she really was that inspires me to work out, even when I don't want to. Here, as in most areas of my life, I am out of balance. I do a lot of cardio, but not as much strength training, and I only stretch after spin class. I joke that I'll be a little old lady with a very strong heart who can't bend over to put away her groceries.
Sadly, that joke has more than a ring of truth.
Luckily, I still have time to make some changes. I can practice integrating more stretching into my daily life. It's pretty obvious that I'm not going to adopt a regular yoga practice any time soon, at least not with my current obligations. But I can remember to stretch throughout the day.
I used to set Outlook appointments to remember to pray the liturgy of the hours. I'd still like to get back to that. But if I could stretch for a few minutes every few hours and offer prayers of gratitude as well as prayers for whomever has crossed my consciousness as being in need of prayer--that would be great too.
I think I may have just found my New Year's resolution/health goal!
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