Quenby, (I know it’s serious when people say my first name) ...
“Quenby,” said the world-class neurosurgeon who just happened to be on call the day I had a stroke nine days after the birth of my daughter, Khaleesi.
Not a little numb-your-face stroke, but a subarachnoid hemorrhage, a rare and deadly kind of bleeding stroke.
“Quenby (as I sat sobbing in his office, looking at a completely clear scan of my brain on the big screen), did you know that when Bill Gates was being interviewed they asked him what the key to happiness was? This man with so much influence and experience? Gratitude. Gratitude was his response. We should appreciate our days, our relationships, our time — because money comes and money goes, things fade away, the present turns to past moment by moment. But true, deep gratitude is the key to longevity, and perhaps happiness.
“And I would wager to say that you, Quenby, when you sit down to Thanksgiving dinner with your family this year, will have more to be thankful for than anyone else at that table.”
I was humbled.
I have never been a particularly grateful type of person.
The word gratitude starts to color our season like fake fruit in a cornucopia every fall, and I have never been a fan. Of course I was thankful (or so I thought), but it seemed so cliché, so . . . not my type of thanks-giving — until this particular season of life swept in.
Now gratitude paints my days, for . . .
Clockwise from upper right: Quenby, stepdaughter Zoe, daughter Khaleesi, son Cooper, stepson Austin, partner David
My son, Cooper, and his new found sense of humor; his boyhood returning after life stressors had stolen his joy.
My daughter, Khaleesi, the way she feels as if she is an extension of myself, another appendage that I would be groping aimlessly without.
My partner, David, the strength and patience to lovingly look upon me in the darkest of hours, and smile and find a way to draw laughter out of an empty well. To have embraced my son when I could not, to reassure him and give him a sense of security as his world was unravelling. To love me and hold me when I had no clue which way was up.
My family, the sound of my father’s footsteps walking the hospital hallways to bring me an espresso every morning. The pop-top keychain he brought me from the gift shop. My mother, taking my tears to the streets, forcing me to walk off my fear. David’s family and their parade of encouragement.
My big brother, the first voice I heard upon waking in ICU, I could not see him but his voice brought me comfort.
My little sister, the yogi with all her silly new age crap that she would send over via text or email followed up with “I love you, I love you, I love you.”
And then my friends, (and you all know exactly who you are), there are so many of you. I love you and one day hope to embrace you like you embraced me. The swooping in and scooping up of my slumped over soul — again and again, day after day, turning my sorrows into laughter — sharing in this long march out of the bog of disappointment.
And to the Maker, who gave me back everything I could have lost, everything I was never truly grateful for because I never knew how to be.
Perhaps you have been there, too.
Perhaps we all at some point need to lose our vision to truly see again.
And for that I am truly thankful.
QUENBY SCHUYLER | Survivor Saint Charles, Illinois