2014 has been an incredibly tough year for me; I would go so far as to say that 2014 has, by far, been the worst year that I have ever experienced. It seemed like the year just progressively threw greater and greater trials at me, almost like I was being tested to see how much I could possibly endure. However, the year has ended, and I survived. I might not have thrived, but I survived.
Starting off the year, my son was beset by chronic asthma and croup that completely escalated out of control. It meant frequent hospitalisations, a ridiculous amount of missed school, and even an emergency ambulance ride when he literally couldn't breath and started turning blue. There were some weeks that I honestly couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel; it just seemed like everything we tried got us nowhere at best. However, by the end of October, with some intensive treatment from an amazing asthma specialist, we finally seem on the road to having a manageable illness.
Just as we seemed to be turning the corner with Stephen's condition, however, my daughter decided she needed to get in on the action! The same day that my son was booked in for routine surgery to have his tonsils out (we were literally in the car, on our way), our GP called to say that we needed to rush our daughter to the emergency department as he was certain she had appendicitis. This was after three weeks of her being unwell and us being adamantly told it was nothing more than a bad case of gastro at the previous two emergency dept visits, and two visits to another GP (ours was in holiday when it all started happening). We dropped my son and husband at one hospital while my daughter and I hightailed it to the children's hospital, where guess what? They still didn't believe me that my daughter had anything more serious than gastro, but due to our GP's insistence, they admitted us. Thank goodness, because that night at 3 in the morning, she spiked a 42C/107F fever, which I later found out is considered a serious medical emergency, and that suddenly prompted the doctors to take the appendicitis theory more seriously.
The next morning, after a barrage of tests, ultrasounds and a CT scan, the surgeons confirmed that she had a ruptured appendix, and that had led to a pelvic abscess. Due to the massive infection, removal of the appendix was considered too risky, so the surgeons decided to drain the abscess and then aggressively treat the infection with IV antibiotics for a week, with removal of the appendix planned for three months later. In the meantime, Irini went for fortnightly ultrasounds and blood tests to keep an eye on things. Of course, while all this was happening, both my parents and my in-laws were overseas! I tell you, if there is ever a time you really want your mum, it is when you are dealing with a life threatening illness in your child! And yet, even without my parents, we were surrounded by love; little friends came to visit and bring the cheer that only comes with the innocence of children, big friends supplied us with what seemed like an endless supply of baked goods and casseroles. Even volunteer strangers came with smiles and balloons and fun and games.
Three months went past, the infection and abscess was completely cleared up, and we went in to see the surgeon to book in for the appendectomy, where he ever so apologetically let me know that the children's hospital no longer considered the surgery urgent, so we would need to go on the waiting list, which could be anywhere from 6 to 12 months. Never have I been so glad to have private health insurance, as I was when the surgeon agreed to squeeze us in on his last private surgery list for the year. Booked in finally, I could almost breath a sigh of relief. For the previous three months, every time Irini had a tummy ache we would all stress that the appendicitis was recurring, as there is a small risk of this.
It's funny how life works. For two weeks I was complaining how inconvenient having the surgery less than a week before Christmas would be, and for the first time in a long time, I had all my Christmas present shopping done so I would be ready before the surgery date, when life threw at me the worst event of all.
On the 10th of December, my only sibling took his life. Three days before Christmas, and a day after Irini came out of hospital after her surgery, we attended my brother's funeral. I still can't comprehend it completely even now, three weeks later. I'm not sure I will completely comprehend it in three years, or even thirty. I think in any unexpected death, let alone suicide, it is impossible to not question "why?" over and over. It is impossible to not question your faith. It is a blow that can be felt so deep within your soul, you are not sure why you own heart is still beating.
And yet. And yet, you endure. I truly believe that life does not give you anything you cannot truly bear. It may give you challenges that you think are insurmountable, but they are not. They are there to teach, if only we are willing to learn. On one of my darkest days, this poem below came into my inbox. It's timing couldn't have been more perfect. Coincidence? Serendipity? I don't know. I just know it was what I needed when I needed it.
Winter has swallowed us whole, taken us deep. In the chill of ice, trees stand stark as bones, the land is cold iron, frost slows all movement so Gaia is still as death. Only the brilliant stars in the black sky remember the rhythms of earth as they wheel through the night. All is connected. As stars bloom and die, as flowers fall to seed, as bone becomes nurturing ground, the wheeling universe lives in its Beauty and pattern. We are stardust, born of the Great Goddess, and in her is all hope. Even in the most severe terror of darkness and cold that Kali brings, the Spark flares again to ignite the perfect miracle of life. When all seems lost, the mystery of the universe begins to lift us into light and renewal once more.
Life has been irrevocably changed and can never be the same, but the love and support of your family, your friends, and your faith cradle you, hold you close, and lift you back towards the light until you can grasp it once again.
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