Saturday, June 26, 2010

Quite by Accident

I had such a fun day yesterday. I began my day with a rigorous workout with my trainer. Then I went shopping for the perfect cheese, plump strawberries, the perfect wine and a great loaf of bread. After shopping, time for a late and tasty lunch at Barrio in St. Paul with my dearest friend and Evil Twin, Lisa.  I drank my first mojito - OK, my first two mojitos - but after all it was a 3 hour lunch.  And, the mojto was fresh blackberry - oh my goodness!!

In the early evening I had a fabulous conversation - with a wine toast - with my oldest friend, J. And then, I had another wonderful wine toast and long phone talk with my sister Missy. Dinner? Yes, pristine seared tuna crusted with black and white sesame seeds. The wine - Mer Soleil - a beautiful barrel aged 2006 Chardonnay.

Today, I have been enjoying a quiet and reflective day.  I have watched a couple of movies, talked to friends on the phone, spent time petting Miss Kitty and thinking. As I was looking at things on my computer I came across the following document that I wrote November 16, 2002, Tom died 2 years and 2 days later. It was written for a friend that had suffered a stroke and was struggling. Interesting to read it today.

Here is the piece I found today ---- To Marvin:

"Our family knows first hand the mighty path one is called upon to walk in the aftermath of a stroke.

It has been 26 months since Tom’s stroke. When he was released from rehab and we began the next phase of recovery, Tom could not speak intelligibly, could not drive, be alone in the house, use kitchen appliances, read a book or a newspaper, listen to music, watch television, or perform most of the large and small tasks of daily living.

The mundane tasks of life became major undertakings – dressing might take an hour. For many months, depression and wanting to sleep a great deal were the norm.  Tom did not remember my name for nearly a year. “Honey” was good enough for me. In fact, “good enough” became our mantra.

In August 2001, the medical professionals released him from therapy and told us, 'Recovery is over'. Tom was not even driving. It felt as though our life was over. It was. The old life was over. What we could not see at that moment was a new life emerging.

A stroke changes everything. For us, the new life challenged us to be persistent and find satisfaction in the smallest achievements; to examine what was most important in our lives and to rejoice in the comfort of daily life together. It also called upon us to exercise a patience that neither of us knew we possessed.

It is true that Tom will always have brain damage from that traumatic incident. That is a tragedy – one that will not change. Is he frustrated? Yes. Did he let it stop him? No.

Tom was always an impatient person. In the aftermath of the stroke, he has found a deep sense of patience and joy in the small but important endeavors of life. He works in the garden, polishes his Porsche (yes, he is driving again). He reads – a great strength of his and one he was not robbed of in the stroke.

He tells me fifty times a day that I am beautiful – and that he loves me. When he gets frustrated or begins to be angry – he stops himself, shrugs and says, “It’s not worth it,” – life is too short and he knows that stress could bring on another CVA. The old Tom could not (would not) have controlled his annoyance, impatience and frustrations in that way.

For me, the stroke put my life in sharp focus. What once was vitally important seems now to be merely a portion of the greater whole of my life. Some things that seemed vitally important have little significance today. I quit my job; opened a home-based consulting practice and I gave myself permission to grieve (instead of filling my time with “busyness” so I would not have to think about it). I take time everyday to be alone and to reach out to others.

I am grateful to have Tom still by my side. The stroke forced me to examine my values and take steps to live them in my daily life

It has been a long journey, one that will never be over. Remember those expert opinions about Tom’s recovery being at an end? He continues to make strides forward. Some steps are miniscule; others are huge. We celebrate them all.

Do I wish the stroke had never happened? Would I trade the lessons learned? Do I pray for Tom’s brain to be completely healed? Absolutely. That doesn't mean the lessons are without value.

In the first year after the stroke, I never could have imagined that life could or would change so much or that we ever would be happy again. But we are. In many ways, we love one another more than the day it happened.

A social worker at the rehab hospital said, “You know why it is called a stroke; because in one instant, your life is changed forever.” How true. Yet in the aftermath of life’s sudden destruction, you still have choices. You can choose to wallow in self-pity or choose to live your life in new ways.  What we know for sure is the most important things we have are our relationships with others and living our lives in ways that make meaning for us – with our values rooted firmly in the center."

I am blessed today and everyday. Thank you for being companions on my life's journey.


  1. that is such an inspiring post...just like you have been to me so many times with your words. you are such a special woman.

  2. Suzann .... this is beautiful.
    Thank you for sharing it.

  3. I loved reading your thoughts to Marvin - you are truly the most special person in the world, J

  4. I am only now reading this post. As someone who has worked extensively with stroke patients and their families I want you to know what you wrote is truly exceptional. You should submit this to the American Heart Assn. for publication in their "After Stroke" magazine.

    I'm disappointed therapists would have told you further progress and recovery was over after formal therapy ended. Perhaps what they meant was the gains would likely not be at a rate or to a degree that Medicare and/or insurance would recognize as being sufficient to justify paying therapists to continue working with a patient.