May 6th, 2011 was the second time in my life that I ever stepped into an emergency room. I was there for urgent care, because my heart had been beating rapidly for five days straight and it got worse the day before. I was jittery and couldn’t concentrate on anything. I wasn’t sure what was wrong with me and was reasonably scared, so I decided to go into urgent care in case if it was life-threatening or serious.
As with any hospital visit, I waited for an indecent length of time where I twiddled my thumbs and tried to tell my already stimulated heart to calm down. When they finally called me in, they made me wait longer as they ran tests on me and analyzed the results. I lied on the hospital bed for over three hours, waiting for results on my blood test and EKG, with thoughts running a-muck in my head. I am not a morbid person of any sorts, quite the opposite, but I couldn’t help but think, “What if this is something serious? What if it turns out that my time here is shorter than I expected it would be?” Of course thinking like that did not help me to stay calm, but those thoughts helped me in another, unexpected way.
It got me thinking. Most of us have this expectation that we will live long lives. Not that that is bad, but by thinking that way, we start to put things off. We say, “I can do it tomorrow, or next month or next year.” We may think too that we and our family and friends will always be there, that perhaps we are the exceptions to the “no one can escape death” rule. Then we let life pass by, let words lie dead on our tongues, put things off until it’s too late and the time has already come and gone. By living, we sometimes forget to live. And it’s funny that it only takes a brush with death to give you that good shake, that kick in the butt, for you realize that. And that life will never turn out as you quite expect it to.
The first time I ever stepped into the emergency room was when I was fifteen. There was a waiting room there too, but I had gone to see someone in the emergency, so I bypassed the room and went straight through the swinging doors. People were rushing all about me, doctors, nurses and the like, a deep contrast to the calm and seemingly non-urgent “urgent care” I went to. My family members were already there, and I was directed to the room where the person I had gone to see rested, and I still remember how dark that room was and how scared I felt. I reached out to hold his hand yet retreated upon feeling the cold. That was also a first. Death hit me (Or was it life?). It told me that it was capricious and ever so fickle. That it gives and it takes. But at the time I did not hear it, because all I could hear was, you don’t have a father anymore.
If I am lucky enough to have a whole lifetime, I do not want to spend it waiting. I do not want to regret putting things off, not saying or doing things I wish I had done before the time ran out. Life is meant to be grabbed, utilized for all its essence. Maybe there is something to the cliché, “live like you’re dying.” Because when you’re dying, you begin to see the great value of life more clearly. But I think we should cherish life every day of our lives regardless. I don’t want to die without having lived my dreams, creating new ones and telling the people I love and care for how much they mean to me. In both of my emergency room visits in my life, I was shown the same thing, that we can never expect what life will give or take from us, and it may be gone faster than we could have ever expected.
The waiting room taught me a valuable lesson. Life is truly too short to spend it waiting.