Monday, August 2, 2010

State of Grace

The online dictionary gives this definition (#8) for Grace:
a. the freely given, unmerited favor and love of god
b. the influence or spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them.
c. a virtue or excellence of divine origin: the Christian graces
d. Also called state of grace. The condition of being in God's favor or one of the elect.

I first learned about the state of Grace in college. The Chaplain (phenomenal woman) explained it while counseling a friend who was undergoing crisis. I don't remember how this friend and I intersected at the moment of crisis, only that in the afterward, the lasting remembrance is her explanation of being in a state of Grace.

I've experienced other moments of Grace throughout my life. Moments where I was blessed/lucky/fortunate/good karma, etc. I think I call them various things depending on circumstances. But I know that Big Daddy and I were in a state of Grace when he had his stroke on July 11.

There were so many things that could have gone wrong, but instead, everything went right (if you call having a 45 year old man with few risk factors have a stroke right). He woke up and went to the restroom which woke me up enough to hear him return to bed and then his distress when he couldn't move his right side. The paramedics took him to our hospital with a stoke center within an hour of of the onset of symptoms (he was text book). He wasn't bleeding in his brain (an ischemic stroke), making him eligible for Tissue Plasminogen Activator (tPA), which he received at 3:20 a.m. He was also lucky to have had his stroke on the morning of July 11 as there were 7 other strokes that day/night, so the Chair of the Neurology department/Stroke Program Director was still at the hospital and administered the tPA.

That at 4:00 a.m. (40 minutes after the "Lazarus" drug was administered), Big Daddy was back. When Katie the ER nurse when through the response drill (raise your left leg, raise your right leg, raise your left arm, raise your right arm, follow my fingers with your eyes, etc.), Big Daddy could kick both legs (Katie and I looked at each other like, Did you see that?), then when he could respond to all her requests and I looked at his eyes and saw him looking back...that moment was one of undisputed grace.

And there were more....neighbors who came over in the middle of the night to stay with the girls (who never woke up which is another gift of epic proportions), people who found us a sitter to stay Sunday night who turned out to be friends with our neighbors across the street, colleagues who asked what do you need and would have come to our aid if asked, family who answered calls at 5:00 am and 7:00 am and drove to help me with the girls, other family who answered calls at 6:00 am and came to the hospital to be with their only son.

It became an embarrassment of riches, the offers and desire of those who wanted to help. I'm only thankful that we didn't need them. But it's humbling to know that the offers were there and that many more were not made, only because we were so very, very fortunate and our needs were easily managed. That we were blessed.

I like the 2nd definition of the state of Grace - to strengthen or regenerate them. Instead of looking at all the things that might have been, I try to focus on the fact that this occurred in my beloved so that we can fix the underlying mechanical reason for the stroke to have reached his brain (Patent Foramen Ovale) and that reducing risk factors means some medication and lifestyle changes, something we've both been saying we need to do to live long for the girls.

Like all growing opportunities, though, the aftermath of Grace is challenging. Learning to live in this new reality, one of which really has few side effects - I can't help but wonder about the others who had strokes on the 10th/11th and wonder at their outcomes and if they were as lucky as we - has it's moments. I'm learning how not to worry every time Big Daddy gets up in the night and there was his extra concern over my headache last nigh. It's good to care for each other, but it's also a side effect of the experience for a while. Like all new things, it will take us time for the regeneration to feel normal. In the meanwhile, my heart and soul are overwhelmed and the myriad of gifts and love bestowed on us. On the Grace that is our lives.