Seven Days: a Lesson in Perspective


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Late last week, Chris and I received some devastating news: his brother-in-law, a man I know to be brilliant, vibrant, kind, and funny, who has been fighting brain cancer for about a year, was given a new prognosis: days to live instead of months. As soon as we heard, we began making plans to head north to Iowa, intending to say goodbye, which we prefer to attending a funeral. (I dislike seeing people I love looking like wax fruit, and prefer to see people when there’s still some there there.)

We’d barely had time to process the news, what with church on Sunday, a Valentine’s Day dinner that had been planned for a while, and various other ordinary distractions, when we received another call, this one early this morning, with even worse news: He’d slipped into a coma, and the estimate was now seven days.

Our car is in the shop, and won’t be ready til Friday, so we can’t really leave any sooner than we originally planned, but this means our plans for a nice vacation to Seattle for our anniversary next month (15 years! Woo!) may have to be scrapped, or at least tabled. I’m not complaining – family comes first, and it’s important that we go, and support Fuzzy’s sister and daughters, and help where we can, and make our own goodbyes.

But I can’t help but think about what seven days can mean.

For a person in a coma, seven days can mean the difference between an easy death, or one full of pain.
It can mean the difference between people holding your hand and saying goodbye, or people visiting your grave.

For an Olympic athlete, it can mean the difference between attempt and success, or the difference between being known in your own community, or throughout the entire world.

For a traveler, it can mean the difference between a room in a friend’s house, a cushy hotel, and their own bed.

For a dog in a shelter, it can be the difference between being a stray, and being rescued, or adoption and euthanasia.

Seven days can be merely a week, or an infinite amount of time. Or both.

Last October, we spent seven days in New York and New Jersey, celebrating a wedding, visiting old friends, reconnecting with family, and exploring old haunts. On Columbus Day, Fuzzy and I visited Fort Hancock, NJ, and climbed the Sandy Hook lighthouse. He took the picture at the top of the post.

Seven days before that, I’d had the flu.
Seven days after, I’d realized how much my New Jersey childhood still informs my being.

Seven days from tonight, we’ll probably be in Iowa.

CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 Seven Days: a Lesson in Perspective by Melissa Bartell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.