Other side of dying

“I was only supposed to live 24 hours.”

My brother-in-law Josh said this to me over a steak at Doe’s last weekend.

“That’s what the Doctors told Momma and Daddy. I was born 10 weeks early, weighed 2 pounds, 6 ounces. I stayed at the hospital four months before they brought me home.”

It was one of those family stories I had heard before but somehow forgotten about. “That’s right, ain’t it?” I said. “I ain’t thought about that, but we need to today.”

We needed to because we were there having dinner as a family to celebrate his 36th birthday. He was told he’d get 24 hours. So far he’s had 315,360.

The doctors were off just a little bit.

Hearing that made the steak taste better, the smiles get bigger, and the night mean more. You haven’t had coconut cake until you’ve had it with a man who isn’t supposed to be here.

When I was 18 I went to the doctor sick as a dog. He looked at me all of 30 seconds then told me to walk across the street and check into the hospital.

They took a bunch of blood and stuck me in bed. About 8:30 that night two doctors came in the room together. One of them casually said, “Your white blood cell count is incredibly high. We think you either have leukemia or hepatitis. We’ll let you know in the morning.”

And then they just turned around and left, as if that meant nothing.

It was a long night. I didn’t sleep a wink – just laid there watching reruns, trying not to think about dying. Kramer could not take my mind off leukemia. Hank Hill didn’t stop me from thinking about hepatitis. I had just fallen in love, just graduated high school, just began what I was absolutely positive was going to be a lucrative career at the chicken plant.

By sunrise I had planned my funeral.

A few hours later, a different doctor came in and said, “Good news! No leukemia! Just one of the worst cases of mono we’ve ever seen.”

After hearing that, even the Jell-O they brought me was the best thing on earth.

I was in the hospital for four days. They couldn’t save my job at the chicken plant, but as far as I was concerned, they had saved my life.

Psalm 39:4 says, “…let me know how fleeting I am!” After mono I knew. God started me off as an adult just happy to be one. That’s grace.

It hasn’t been easy, and I’ve lost that perspective a hundred times since then, but at Doe’s my brother-in-law reminded me of it. He and I both know there’s something special about the other side of “dying.”

Not “dying” dying, of course. I can’t speak on that, yet, but if you make it to the “not supposed to be here” side, the food tastes better, the hugs get tighter, and gratitude renews every 24 hours.

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