I have always been a person who has believed in Heaven. I believe that if you are a born again Christian, you go to Heaven when you die. I have also thought that once you leave this Earth, you are gone. I am not a “spirits stick around and watch over us” kind of person.
Almost a year ago, all of my beliefs were called into question and I was forced to take a good look at how I live each day. I had to look at where my priorities were, did I truly know if I died I was going to Heaven. It was a difficult look in the mirror.
On December 18th, 2013 I went in for a routine, but invasive, abdominal surgery. It would be 2 days in the hospital and a 6-8 week recovery, but luckily my administrators at work moved mountains to make it possible; and my parents were living with us briefly, which meant my mom would be there for the recovery process when my husband had to go back to work.
I sent my kids to school that day, with hugs and kisses and promises to be ready to hear about holiday parties when they got to the hospital after school. I waited anxiously in the pre-op room, and as the nurse came to wheel me away, I kissed my husband and mom good-bye. The last thing I remember was seeing the door to the OR, and saying “think doc will give me a tummy tuck while he’s in there?”
I didn’t hear a response from the nurse, because my medication had kicked in and I was out before the doors to the OR even opened. I remember snippits of time throughout the night.
“She looks dead.” A voice whispered at one point. I would later learn this was my son – who refused to leave the hospital that day until he saw me and saw that I was okay.
The next morning, when I was fully awake, I learned that I suffered a major complication during surgery and what should have been a 3 hour surgery turned into well over 6 hours, lots of blood lost, and me almost dying.
Apparently, the doctor nicked the line that runs between my kidney and bladder, and was unable to get the bleeding to stop. Normal hemoglobin levels in healthy adults are near 14 g/dL, and a transfusion is performed at a level of 7 g/dL. My hemoglobin level after surgery was 6 g/dL. The doctor chose not to do a transfusion, and hoped that I could regain my hemoglobin on my own with an iron supplement and healthy diet.
My recovery was difficult, to say the least. I worked so hard to get my levels up and not have to have a transfusion… which was still on the back burner if my levels didn’t improve at an acceptable rate. My mom shoved iron pills, red meat, spinach, and vitamin c down my throat to the point that I wanted to throw up. But, in two weeks I was up and moving, my levels were back up, and I was on the road to recovery.
In the weeks and months after, I began to feel remorse and guilt over having the surgery and the finality of not being able to have kids (which was totally off the table, but still was a hard thing to swallow). I began to wonder what would have happened if I had actually died.
How would my husband have had that conversation with my kids? How would my kids have made it through the rest of their lives without me there? How would I make it not being there with them?
I began this weird questioning phase of “would I even know I was gone?” Would my family be stuck mourning and falling apart, and I wouldn’t even be aware that I was gone? I knew that was the case, but it hit me so hard in those moments after my surgery.
I have been the one left behind, and I know how much it hurts. The thought of having that happen with my kids, killed me. And it was something that was so far out of my control.
This event made me start to understand the fragility of life, and the ease in which someone can just be gone. No notice, no good-byes.
It also made me start to think about what would have happened when I died. Would I end up in Heaven like I have always thought? I know in my heart, my answer to that question is and always will be yes. I love Jesus and I have trusted that he is my savior, and I believe that when I die I will spend eternity with him.
What that eternity looks like, I can’t say. I have started to understand that Heaven probably isn’t the place I have made it to be in my mind up to this point. It probably isn’t what Hollywood has made it out to be. I don’t know what Heaven will look like, but I know that I will be there. I can’t imagine an eternity that doesn’t give me some kind of hope for peace and purpose.
I am thankful for a crazy supportive family, and crazy supportive bosses and co-workers. And my friends. I wouldn’t have made it through that process without my support group.
It is almost a year later, and I am still trying to process what happened to me in those moments of surgery… and what could have happened to me. My heart aches at the thought of what could have been, but I am taking those aches and I am building a better now. I am a work in progress, but I am trying… and that’s all that counts, right?