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An Important Lesson: Living in the Moment

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I learned an important lesson over the last two years: living through a traumatic experience can bring some life lessons home, even when you don’t think that you need them.

On January 2, 2012, my life was changed forever when I received that knock on the door. As the wife of a police officer, a knock on the door can only mean one thing, and it is never good news. My knock on the door came in the middle of the night, and it was followed by a fast trip across town to a hospital far from home, where I was met by sad police officers, and a husband in a coma. News spread quickly of his accident and his brain injury, and life became layers of chaos.

Life before the injury was chaotic – with three children, full-time jobs for both of us, one as an officer that worked overnights. Life was busy. Up early, home late, life was frantic – and frantic is not a way to live life. It is a way to get through the day. Life that is lived without paying attention has little meaning, and when 10 years go by and you cannot remember attending the events at your children’s school, life is passing by you.

And I didn’t even realize I was missing it.

When I was sitting by Frank’s hospital bed, wondering if he was going to live another day, I remember thinking about life, and how we had arrived at this moment. Why were we here? Why did this happen to us? What do I do now?

Watching the ventilator breathe for him, I often fell into a deep thought, almost like a trance. I am sure part of that was the complete overwhelming nature of the situation, but I think another part was just finding brief moments of peace, and allowing myself to try and relax when I was with him. Even though it was scary, knowing that this great big man may never wake up, may never walk, or talk, when it was just the two of us sitting in that room, I did find moments of peace and clarity.

In the quiet, I would find myself drifting to thoughts of our family – the kids and how school was for them that day, of Frank and wondering if he was missing work and his partners while in a coma. I thought about my friends that I had not seen in months because I was too busy working all of the time. I thought about our children, and how much I missed them right at that moment, and all of the moments that I had spent away from them working, or the moments that I was just not present, even when we were in the same room together.

In those quiet moments, I began to realize that life was passing me by – that although I talked about being “super Mom” and getting more done in a 15-hour day than anyone else could get done in a week, I was missing something every important. I was getting a lot of things done, but not doing anything important. Did my husband care if I finished 10 conference calls back to back in one day? Did my children care about the 200 emails that I read and answered in one day, or about the power point I created and sent off at a moment’s notice?

No, none of those things were important to them.

What they cared about was whether or not I finally said yes to an extra book at bedtime, an extra snuggle on the couch, a movie or a date night where it was just us. When did my life become about what I could get done, and not about who I was with?

This realization, as I rested my head on my husband’s chest, feeling the ventilator breathe for him, came over me like a wave. Where have I been lately? I have missed so much, and I may have missed my chance to have more moments with Frank. Living my life like there would always be another time, another moment, without caring about living in the present had lead me to that moment – a moment that was scary, and it filled me with sadness.

Silent tears on my husband’s chest led me to a realization – life is not meant to be lived as a spectator. Watching life whiz past you as you run with the pack at the fastest pace possible may get you ahead in the race, but what did you notice on the journey?

Did you see the beautiful sunset last week at the beach when you were on that quick phone call?

Did you notice the children laughing and giggling about the word “poop” in the story that you did not read to them last night?

Did you feel warm and secure while falling asleep at night snuggled up against pillows on another work trip while your family was at home?

The time had come for a change, and if I was given more time, I would relish in those moments that you can never get back – the concerts, the art shows at school, mowing the lawn, exploring the park, helping others and yes, just one more story at bedtime.

Life is a precious gift, and I almost missed it by not being present in my own life. We may have lived through a tremendous, heart breaking injury, but within that trauma we were given a gift.

The gift of living in the present. And knowing that if there isn’t a tomorrow, we were blessed to focus on the moments of today.

Have you had a moment where a life lesson presented itself at an unexpected time? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

About the Author:

Lisabeth Mackall is a mother, wife, author and presenter.

Comments

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29 Replies

  • By Marilyn

    Thank you for sharing, it’s beautiful and inspirational. God bless xx

  • By Patricia Henaghan

    This story took me back to several events in my life that changed it. I was always close to my grandparents and several aunts and uncles. My grandfather died when I was 18; all I can remember is overwhelming grief…yet, I also remember my sister who was pregnant pressing my head against her while I cried. I remember thinking that life goes on.

    Two years later, my Dad had a severe gall bladder attack that lasted 10 days or more. I remember seeing him suffering and wishing I could help. He was admitted to the hospital for the typical surgery. They took him to surgery and my family and I went to have coffee. We were summoned from the cafeteria to learn that surgery was cancelled because he had had a heart attack during the bad spell. Later tests found an inoperable aortic aneurysm; it had ballooned slowly and developed its own blood supply. They sent him home with a prognosis of 6 weeks. They told him to lift nothing more than a pound or so….not even a gallon of milk. He was a big man and proud of taking care of his family. My sister was just 11 at the time. He stayed home and followed doctor’s orders for a couple of weeks; then he told my mom, “I’m going back to work.” She asked if the doctor oked it and he just repeated his statement. Weeks went by and he was doing well, it seemed. We, as a family, without consultation, decided to make the best of things. We spent more time together, had meals out at restaurants (a rare occasion before this). Dad worked nights as a private duty policeman at a mall. He was assigned dispatch after his attack, which helped. He would call when he knew I’d be home from school and my job and catch up on my life. It was a special time. Years went by, nearly 5 to be exact, and we forgot that he had a bad prognosis.

    My mom had lost a younger brother to a heart attack and her mom, my grandmother, suffered a stroke at his wake. She was bedridden for 19 months. Dad drove Mom to her house every Wednesday so that she could tend to her mom while her sister continued to work. Mom’s siblings took turns caring for Grandma. I picked her up the next day and got to visit with Grandma every week. On Jan. 5, 1972, I got a call from the police that my dad had been taken to the hospital…no other information was given. As I entered, my uncle met me and said, “He was gone before they found him.” What a shock; I didn’t know he had died. They took me to a cold room where he was lying. I touched his hand, always warm in life, and it was the coldest I had ever felt. I couldn’t believe that my warm, funny, strong, honorable Dad was gone…But I treasured all the times we had together.

    Grandma died 2 months later. Her funeral brought back every bit of pain that I had felt when Dad died…yet, I treasured the time I had spent with her. She told stories and just radiated love and kindness. I can still feel it 40+ years later.

    I could go on and on about the wonderful people in my life that have gone ahead… but the lesson would be the same. Each passing taught lessons about time and sharing, about remembering and being present in a relationship. And when I’d start to slip, to get too busy for visits, notes or conversations, God would pull me up short and give me another experience…Oh, not a death, necessarily, but an illness, a financial failure, or a wonderful new friend who reminds me by their very nature of how important the people in our lives are.

  • By Anjelena Staggs

    Living through Breast Cancer I learned to “celebrate life one moment at a time”

  • By Carolyn Shutts, Mother and Grandmother of two.

    Awesome!! I have been reminded many times myself how precious life really is! I have 2 grown children with children of their own and busy schedules. We have been blessed to have our children, grandchildren and cherish the moments and times we have together. Your story is truly inspirational, God Bless ya’ll.

  • By Jeff P

    So very true how we get caught up in the day-to-day tasks and let life’s more joyful moments pass us by. This is a very inspirational reminder to take the time out for what’s most important in life; spending time with family and enjoying activities outside of work.

  • By Dr. Robin Bentel

    What a beautiful finding of the core of truth, purpose and love deep inside, during the malestrom of not knowing the outcome of her husband’s condition. If he would ever wake or be functional again. Such a tragedy, and such an inner blessing of awareness at the same time. So important to remember, to be present, to be open to the experience of life in the moment for all of us, and not waiting for a crisis before we understand. My thanks to Lisabeth for these important words.

  • By Dora Pelley

    I totally agree with you that life must be lived with tremendous passion each and every moment. Yes, we do not have tomorrow guaranteed but we have today. We can share a smile, a word of encouragement, a kiss and a hug. If we had 15 seconds to get out of a house on fire, what would we take out? Of course, we would grab our loved ones and forget about materials. Spend time with others, precious time and let them know each day that you love them very much.

  • By kerry

    Thank you Lisa – don’t know why I am able to read this, but I receive it as a gift and road-flag. I’m very grateful for your sharing

  • By Gene Elliott

    Thanks so much. Lizabeth, for the inciteful and thoughtful reminder to “live this day” while we can. I lost my little brother to leukemia when he was only 11 but I have always been regretful? not to be able to say goodbye to him. In fact, because of circumstances, he suffered for three whole weeks at the end during which time I wasn’t able to see him.
    .
    I learned then to take advantage of life’s opportunities while I can.

  • By Bonita Johnson

    I am a 67 year old mother of 4 and grandmother of 7 and I don’t know where the time has gone. I missed it some where. With four of our own and taking care of other children in my home day care center I lost so much because I didn’t take the time to enjoy what I had with my family. Don’t let life pass you by! My kids and grands are healthy and happy and I thank God for that…but I would love to have some of those precious moments back.

  • By Jerry

    So true. I wasn’t blessed with my first child until I was 43 (the Good Lord is full of surprises! :-) ). While we were in the hospital for his birth, I thought of the Harry Chapin song; “Cats in the Cradle.” I made a decision there in the hospital, that the relationship between my son and I would not resemble the lyrics of that song in anyway. Over the past 7 years since his birth, by God’s grace, I have been successful in this aspect of my life with him and with the second surprise son I got 1 year, 2 days 8 hours and 57 minutes later. By His grace, this will be the case as long as He allows me to live on this earth.

  • By Rose Scott

    How encouraging and brave to share with others to help us stop and count our blessings and smell the roses.Thank you so much Lisabeth.God bless you and your family.

  • By Cheryl Tucker

    Yes, I learned the lesson to late. My father was hospitalized and I took off one day of work to be with him thinking I would have the weekend to be with him. He died 6 am Saturday morning without the chance for me to tell him how much I loved him. All because I thought I would have time. Sad part is that 4 months later I was fired from the job that took me away from my father, because I was afraid if I took the time off I would lose the job. It did not really matter. Now I carry around the pain that I never got to say Good-bye to my father or tell him Loved him. Life is so precious don’t rest one minute on unimportant things.

  • By Donna Blauw

    Thank you for sharing. Nothing like a crisis to show us how valuable time is.
    I have walked through heart failure and a transplant with my son and this August it will be 4 years for him with the new heart. Then in January of the next year I was diagnosed with lymphoma. Three years for me. Everyday is a blessing and I cherish every moment.

  • By Suzie

    What happened to her husband? Was he able to enjoy her new outlook on life?

  • By Peg

    Lisabeth- thank you for the gentle “kick in the butt” that I needed. It’s so easy to get caught in the hustle, bustle of life and cheat yourself AND your family of the here and the now! Reminds me of the old saying somewhere… “The past is history, the future a mystery, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called ‘the present! “

  • By Hal Warner

    This is a reminder to me about life’s basics and how the tools to live a better and happier life are available to me if I slow down and live in the moment. Thank you for the reminder that all of my suffering is either in the past or the future.

  • By Connie

    God Bless You Lisabeth…praying for you & your family

  • By Martha@autismservices.org

    Your wakeup to life and how quickly it can be taken away from you was very close to my heart. April 28, 2014 I lost my older brother. He went in for a complete knee replacement on the 22nd. and had serious complications. He threw blood clots to his lungs but survived that. Unknowingly he also had thrown clots to his intestines at the same time. To make a long story short he went from bad to worse very quickly. They took him to surgery and ended up removing 90% of his intestines. After that he was on complete life support. This was the worst thing I have had to experience in my life. I don’t wish this on my worst enemy. After meeting with the surgeons his wife and my family had to make a decision. He made it through the night but was struggling so hard to live. Having to watch someone you love and need in your life slip away was unbearable. I feel that the Lord granted him the time to make his peace with the Lord. I feel confident that my brother is now in heaven with so many of our family that have gone ahead of us. When something like this happens it makes you stop and realize how important your family and loved ones are in your life. Reading your article certainly helps to make it a reality for sure. Bless your husband, you and your family. Sincerely, Martha

  • By Cheryl

    Lately, I have been telling myself “live in the moment” you cannot change yesterday and tomorrow will be here soon enough. Live the moment you are in and embrace it with both arms.

  • By Nancy

    Thank you Lisabeth for sharing your story. I am deeply grateful and happy as a 75 year old woman working as a Receptionist in Downtown Chicago that I feel my Life on a whole has been on the right track. I know that I have to APPRECIATE MORE my ABUNDANCE of BLESSINGS and I must continue each moment of every day to keep trying to stay on track. My special prayer each morning comes from my little DAILY WORD Meditation Book, which I have been using for YEARS, which I receive in the mail from Unity Village, MO. Lisabeth, I definitely will remember you and your Family. Nancy

  • By KateMarie

    Dear lisabeth, thank you. May the days only reveal the abundance of your Father’s love as your heart heals and your life touches those on your path. Thank you again for sharing your thoughtfulness. Wish I could make supper for you ;)

  • By natalie oliver judge

    I have a son who is a police officer and works nights so this really resonated with me and yes all that you wrote is definitely true and its a shame that we need a tragic event to remind us of all of this but if only we could hang on to these thoughts of change always instead of eventually going back to our routines and ways.
    I truly hope that your husband is back to being healthy and himself again.

  • By Barb

    Thank you, Lisabeth. I got more out of that than you can imagine. I would hug you if I could. I hope all is well on your end :)

  • By Alice V Stattman

    A tragedy certainly brings life in to focus at a moment’s notice. Did your husband come through this? Prayers for all of you. Thank you for reminding us what really is important.

  • By Sherrill Whittern

    It’s ironic how precious those times with loved ones become after they are gone, How much we miss them! How much we long for one more quiet talk, one more hug, one more treasured moment together when we must not wait for Heaven to again see their smiling eyes, Among my deepest regrets is that my late husband and I spent the last five years of our life together so busy building the house we were destined to never live in that we had no time to just enjoy those quiet moments together, How often the tyranny of the urgent robs us of the important!

  • By Bill Davis

    Thank you very much for sharing this. We all need to be reminded that life is so much more than the “busyness” that we too easily become addicted to. God Bless You. If this isn’t being too presumptuous is there someplace we can find out how this all turned out? Positively, I hope. Thank you.

  • By Lisabeth Mackall

    Thank you all for your positive comments – I appreciate them a great deal. You can find updates and other information on our story at http://www.lisabethmackall.com or on Facebook at Brain Injury Recovery – The Mackall Family Journey.

  • By Just me....

    I know someone who’s life I would describe as “Lives in the past, is fearful of the future and merely exists in the present”. To live each day fully in the here and now, is truly a wonderful gift. When my husband calls me to stop whatever I’m doing with a “Come quick look at the beautiful sunset and all its colors!” I stop right then to go look out the window. When I hear music that brings me to tears because it’s just one other way God has shown us His beauty here on Earth, I relish those moments. When our grown sons give me hugs, I’m blessed. Yes. Life has many “in the moment” moments. We just have to be there for them. Part of learning to be there for those precious moments often times involves a very conscious effort to say “We have enough”. Enough money, enough house, enough __________. We can learn to live on less and when we do, then all that ‘scramble to get more’ and the continuous busy-ness of day to day activities eventually fades away. And when it does, that’s when Life really becomes precious and meaningful and something you can treasure here, now, and beyond.