Today I was at the hospital for physiotherapy. I have a whiplash trauma and I go to the hospital twice a week (or more) for treatment. Normally I never thought about my well functioning body, but after the car accident I was in, I did. All of a sudden I realized that my body has been a good working train, to travel in.
As I was waiting, several people came in. Some of them had troubles with walking, others were missing a part of their body like an arm or a feet. Some of them looked totally fine to me, walked normal and still had to be there for treatment. When I am in this waiting room, I know that people cannot see what is wrong with me. So they start to chat, in order to get the information they want. This day, there was an old man sitting next to me. He looked a bit grumpy and said how much he hated this weather with all the snow outside, as I sat down next to him and saw my boots with the snow still on them. He hated the bad weather, he hated the waiting and he hated the way he had to live. Without any asking, he started to tell what was wrong with him. His wife died three years ago and he felt like he had fallen into a well without any ending. In his way of speaking he was still falling down. He could not move his right arm enough, there was no help en his children did not come anymore because of his bad temper. I smiled at him.
‘Why do you smile at me?’ he asked bitter. ‘Do you believe this is a joy in life, to be dependant of others and feel miserable?’ My smile deepened itself.
‘Well?’ he asked again? ‘Apparently you are not suffering like I do, you probably even don’t know what real pain is, do you? Never experienced anything in life, well taken care of and sitting here with a bruised finger? Ha!’ He sniffed firmly and looked at me with an angry look on his face. My answer was short, clear and loving.
‘No sir, I did not bruise my finger, but I do enjoy your company.’ The man looked at me as if I had completely lost my mind.
‘Are you sure you aren’t here for another reason?’ he informed cautiously. I started to smile again.
‘Well? Why are you here then?’ The expression on his face was more open than before and I decided to tell him about the accident I was in.
‘And still having troubles?’ He whistled through his teeth. ‘When did this all happen, three or four months ago?’
No, actually it happened in August 2006,’I replied.
‘But that has been over more than 3 years now!’ he reacted in a bit of a shocked way. I decided to ask more questions.
‘How about you sir? Since when do you have this bad functioning arm?’ I wanted to know.
‘Oh, let me see, it has been in July last year, so that is over a year now. A year and a half I believe.’
‘Can you describe the pain for me?’I asked interested.
‘How did you get it?’I asked him.
‘Well, I was repairing my car and did not look if the stick that holds the hood was attached very well. So as I was tinkering, the hood fell down on my arm and shoulder.’ I nodded and told him I understood it.
‘But you seem to be in pretty good shape, so I don’t think you are having very much issues with pain, are you?’ I smiled again.
‘Already thought so,’ the man continued and gazed into the corridor again. He seemed to be done with the conversation, but I wasn’t.
‘You know, I have a headache each day. I can be feeling dizzy every now and then, my neck hurts and is burning and my shoulders are very tensed all day. I haven’t been able to sleep one night in a normal way anymore since the accident. My hearing has become less at one side and I cannot work more than 45 minutes on my books. I cannot sit in a certain attitude for longer than 10 to 15 minutes. Do you want me to continue?’ The man looked at me in a totally stunned way.
‘Maybe that is because I do not choose to feel the pain all day. I focus on the things I CAN do instead of focusing on the things I can NOT do anymore. I decide to live my life in a way in which I can enjoy things ,such as a beautiful sky, my dog who looks at me in a very loving way, clients who I can help, writing my books, visiting my friends, all of that makes me feel so grateful and blessed. Each day, over and over again I feel happy to see and feel the love of my man and my children. There is so much to see, so much to discover, so much to enjoy!’
‘So that’s why you were smiling…’he said in a mumbling way. I looked at him and smiled again.
‘You are still having your partner, that is why. Well, wait until you will lose that partner. Then you won’t feel like this ever again!’ His face changed from soft to upset. ‘To me it is yesterday my wife died. That pain will never heal, I can assure you. Without her, my life has become useless.’
‘I have lost more than one partner sir, though they are not dead I had to say goodbye to them. But even if I would lose my beloved Brian, I would have the option of choosing how to feel. I believe that I am the only person that can MAKE me feel happy or unhappy. And because I want to remember all the beautiful things, I would choose for happiness instead of doing unhappiness. Did you have a good marriage together?’ I asked him.
‘The best I could have ever wished for. She was such a caring, warm hearted and loving woman. She took care of me and our 5 children. She did everything for us. Everything!’I saw his eyes started to tear and lied down a hand on his left arm.
‘So why do you choose to feel sadness when you feel so blessed by this marriage? Do you realize how many people there are who envy you? You were blessed by this wonderful love of your wonderful wife. So why choose sadness above gratitude?’He looked me right into my eyes.
‘I never thought about it in that way, I have only been busy with missing her,’ he answered.
‘So why not decide to look at it in a joyful way and feel truly blessed?’ I asked him again.
‘I don’t know, maybe it’s because I feel that I am not supposed to feel happy ever again. I cannot be happy without her, it feel like I betray her when my life would be good even without her!’
‘But is she gone then? Really gone? Or is she still with you?’I informed in a gentle way.
‘Oh no! She is always with me, always, each day and each night,’ he replied.
‘So why doing unhappiness then? Why not honor her for all she has given you and feel happy? Do you believe that this is what she wanted for you?’ He shook his head.
‘No, of course not!’
‘So, why are you doing it?’ I asked him.
I never got a straight answer from him anymore, as he was called in at the doctor’s consultancy. A few minutes later I was called in another room. After I was finished with the treatment, I walked to the desk in order to get my hospital card back. The lady who was sitting there asked: ’You are Mrs. Van der Valk, isn’t it?’ I said that this was correct. ‘Another patient left a message for you.’ She handed me a receipt from a grocery shop. It was a message from the older man I had been talking to.
‘I still love her and always will. Thank you for helping me. Johan’ I smiled as I walked out of the hospital. And felt truly blessed.