“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the number of moments that our breath is taken away.”
This was quoted to me last week by a 93 year old patient, affectionately “my Renaissance man” as his history includes being a ballet dancer, poet, and Las Vegas bartender. Ironically for him, his breath is taken away multiple times each day as he dies from COPD.
Today one of the other OT’s told me about turtle races in Mississippi and said the article described them as “breathtaking.” A smirking patient next to me says, “I’m from here so I can say this: There ain’t nothin’ ‘breathtaking’ in the South.”
So I mulled over the number of times my breath has been grabbed here:
– just now at the grocery store when the checker rang up $403 of cantaloupe
– each time I climb into my crockpot of a car that’s cooked to 120 degrees
– both times I almost stepped on a snake on my running trail before I realized the branch was alive
– the time I saw a cockroach in my apartment and realized with horror what that meant for a girl sleeping on the floor
– when four BANG!’s woke me up at 2:30am and I tried to convince myself that it was tardy pyros, not a drug deal gone wrong like my co-workers say
Hmm, that’s several times, but I certainly don’t want to “measure my life” with cantaloupe and cockroaches. I wonder if this is why last weekend what I wanted most to do was ride down to another State Park….after renting a motorcycle. Hours spent on the phone instead may well have saved my life, even if they robbed me of what may have been my only legitimate “breath-taking” experience in Arkansas.
Sometimes I have 3 to 4 patients in the gym, similar hissing tubes snaking from their nostrils, winded after I ask them to reach over their heads. For them, just breathing “in through your nose, out through your mouth” provides the only life they have. Breath, as it turns out, is not always in unlimited supply. Maybe sometimes it’s OK to just hang onto it. Keep it steady, meander slowly, days run in like a ”crick,” out like molasses.
So, my reply: “Life may not be measured by the number of breaths we take, but if it’s all taken away, guess you won’t be gasping at any more turtles.” : )