Life Changes In An Instant

At the risk of whining, which I try not to do here too often, I have to say this has been a pretty crappy week so far. If I were a little younger, I'd say it was "the time of the month," but, since that issue no longer arises for me, I guess I'll have to attribute it to plain old bitchiness. I've overslept the past two mornings, so I've barely had time to get out the door dressed, much less enjoy my first cup of coffee reading time or do my morning pages. The dogs are extremely dirty and smelly, and I don't have time to take them to the groomer until Thursday. I accidently left wet laundry in the washing machine before I went to Florida! which I've had to re-wash three times because it smelled so bad. Anyway, it's just been a week when things like this are really irritating my nerves.

So, I drag home from work today, and the postman had stuffed a huge pile of mail in my box - five days of accumulated catalogs (yes, the holidays are coming soon!), credit card offers (just what I don't need), bank statements, a few bills, and tons of political advertisements of the "my opponent is the biggest loser of all time variety." There were a few belated birthday cards for my husband (plus one for Magic who just turned 4), and an invitation to a Halloween party. Tucked in among this grocery bag full of wasted trees, was a letter from a friend I hadn't heard from in a while. Here's what it said:
"Dear Friends:
Last month we found out that Bill has Stage IV melanoma. You may remember that he had surgery seven years ago, but it apparently did not get rid of all the cancer cells, and melanoma has now spread to his lungs and to lymph nodes in the center of his chest. He currently has no symptoms. The spread was discovered when two moles on his scalp were found to be melanoma. A CT scan revealed the lung spots. He will be undergoing Interleukin-2 treatment, which is intended to boost his immune system to better fight the melanoma. We are asking for your prayers during this time of treatment...especially since melanoma, once is has spread, is particularly hard to get rid of. Thank you for all your supporting thoughts and prayers. All are appreciated."
Needless to say, this certainly knocked me back a peg or two. How dare I feel aggravated by lack of sleep, household chores piling up, or dirty dog feet on the furniture? Here is my friend, who has a 12 year old daughter to raise, facing the possible loss of her husband.
Life does turn on a dime doesn't it? If you haven't read Joan Didion's remarkable memoir, The Year of Magical Thinking, I highly recommend it. In it, she writes of the night in 2003 when her husband sat down at their dining room table, suffered a massive coronary, and died while she was in the kitchen fixing his dinner plate. At the same time, their only daughter was hospitalized and in a coma from septic shock and pneumonia. Her first words in that book are "Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner, and life as you know it ends."
So instead of going to bed grouchy and disgruntled tonight, I've spent some time this evening being grateful for the health and wholeness of my family. Why is it that I can't remember to do this without being hit on the head by someone elses sadness?
Go hug someone you love that you're fortunate enough to still have with you. And say a few prayers for my friends, if you would.