I hope you'll bear with me as I continue to stray from my usual schtick of complaining about running and pictures of my ass.
I'm not sure where I begin telling this story, but I feel strongly that it is a story that needs to be told. I could start it on Sunday morning, when Graham was fine, or Monday when he started throwing up or Tuesday when he stopped eating or Wednesday when he ended up having emergency surgery - actually five emergency surgeries - over the course of a very long night. I could tell you about all the conversations we had when realized that these expenses would far exceed the limit on our credit cards and the depths of our savings account, already depleted by other financial hardship, and all the discussions we had about selling our cars and our bikes and even my wedding rings to keep our family alive. I could repeat all the things the vet said about his lack of progress, the number of times she told us to prepare ourselves, when we realized that even if we emptied our pockets and our hearts, it still might not be enough.
I could tell you all of those things, and they would be true.
I believe that faith, that spirituality and what you believe in is a highly personal thing. I know what I believe in, but I would never want to force that on another human being. I think it matters less who and what you believe in than it does that you have faith at all. I believe in karma, I believe that there is a force bigger and grander than all of us, I believe that the universe is not an accident. I believe that when you cut someone off in traffic and then stub your toe, you've earned it. I believe that when your husband is offered a job in another city and two days later the city suffers the worst forest fires in the history of the state, that it is a sign you should not go. And I'm grappling with my faith in a God that would send so much tragedy to my family in such a short time, but I'm trying to find the lesson in all of this.
When Amy and Liz asked me if they could do something to help us - and they did ask - my first response was no, especially when they wanted to use the blog and this community. Because I feel strongly about the kind of community that has existed here for over three years now, and in no way would I ever want to exploit that community for personal gain. It felt tasteless and sickening. But Liz told me that the ability to ask for help when it is needed is a skill I need to cultivate - and she's right - and that the generosity of the human spirit would be good for my soul. So I said yes to them, I said they could do whatever they liked, and I will take responsibility for any negative reactions or responses to their ask, because this is my community, my blog, and I am ultimately responsible for any content that is posted here.
Letting my friends ask for charity on our behalf is maybe one of the more difficult things I've had to do in my life. I'm sure many will understand. To swallow my pride, to accept the fact that I have failed to support my family, to have to look in the mirror and face the decisions I have made that have led us to a point of such instability - it continues to make me sick. It makes me feel small and inept and mean, it makes me hate myself, especially knowing that there are people out there that have written these things down, the worst things that I think about myself, and called them truth, have called them tasteless and shocking and weak. But making this about me, making this situation about my failures and my inadequacies, doing that is staining the generosity, the pure love and heart that has been shown to me by so many people. Is that the lesson in this? I don't know yet.
But what I do know is that there are not enough words, there is not enough time and space to be grateful enough for what has been done for us, for what continues to be done for us from people and places that I never would have expected. Because of this generosity - a word that I am aware I am overusing but simply have no substitute - we have been able to keep Graham in the hospital for an additional day instead of being forced to make the financial decision Friday morning to bring him home - a decision that most certainly would have ended his life. During that extra day, he got up and walked again. And it is giving us space to continue and try to find the means to keep him in the hospital for today and hopefully tomorrow to get stronger before we do bring him home on a prayer.
What happened to Graham was an accident, but how we move forward will not be. Thom and I discussed this on Friday when donations started showing up, and we agreed that we would pay everyone back, no matter how long it took. But I feel again like that is tainting the spirit that gave so freely. Instead, we decided to match every penny donated to Graham with a donation of our own to the golden retriever rescue that I volunteer with and another one to Lost Dog, a rescue organization that Amy has volunteered with here. If anyone does wish to be paid back, we will happily and freely give that money as soon as we are able, and all of this will be a financial priority - certainly one over running shoes and race entries and frosty drinks with an umbrella. It may take us six months, it may take us ten years, but we will pay this both forward and back.
You may continue to judge the decisions that I have made to protect my family, and I understand. I would do the same. I can snark with the best of them, although I believe that there is a difference between complaining about someone because they talk about their watts all the time and take pictures of their oatmeal and my situation, but you may not. You may hold me accountable to the promise we have made, but I can tell you that you don't have to. Because if Graham makes it through this, if he comes home and spends the next twelve years of his life showing me where the back door is so we can go outside, I will never forget. And if he doesn't make it, if he isn't strong enough to continue fighting, if the time we had with him will forever not be enough, then I will be reminded by the hole in my heart that will never close, not for the rest of my life.