I had to give blood on Thursday in preparation for having my gallbladder removed. I walked into the Lab, stepped up to the counter and waited. The woman behind the desk, busily kept working. I waited at the desk.
A woman seated in the waiting area called out to me. "You need to take a number."
I looked around and saw a machine that dispenses numbers. "Thank you," I replied, moving over to the machine and pressing the green button.
"You have to press harder," the waiting woman said.
I pressed harder. A numbered ticket slid out of the machine.
I smiled at the woman and thanked her again.
"Wow," she said. "You look so well put together and yet, you didn't know what to do."
I laughed. "In the mornings, I start out putting myself together and work through my day pulling it all together."
We both chuckled. She held up a Tim Horton's bag that had been sitting on the coffee table beside her. "I'm waiting to have my test so I can eat my Timmies. I've been fasting."
"It will taste so good when you get to it," I replied.
"Yeah. I'm hoping it's not cancer. I've had an awful past six months. Cancer would just make it worse."
"That it definitely would."
"I'm suffering from PTSD," she told me. "My trailer burnt to the ground last September and I think my neighbour did it but I can't prove it and now he's trying to take a restraining order out on me just because the cops told me to make nice with him and now he's mad I'm not talking to him anymore." She paused momentarily to take a breath. "He's a jobsite thief. I've got the proof and he's afraid I'll go to the police so he's intimidating me but I won't let him."
She started to tell me all that had happened, and all he'd done and what she'd done to counteract his attempts to silence her and then the lab technician came to get her and she ended with a smile. "I'm alive," she said, "and that's what counts." She paused as she stood up, Tim Horton's bag tightly clenched in her hand. "Sure hope it's not cancer though. That would really suck."
"Yes it would," I agreed.
"Well thanks for listening to me," she said as she followed the technician into the Lab. "I really appreciate your kindness."
"Thanks for sharing your story," I called after her.
I sat and waited. The receptionist looked up, glanced towards where the other woman had just disappeared and said, "Boy. She's had a rough go of it. And she's always so pleasant."
Another technician came out from the back to check my file at the reception desk. Statuesque. Burnished skin the colour of deep mahogany. She stood and chatted momentarily with the receptionist. "I have to go pick up my daughters wallet at the bus lost and found. Isn't that nice. The driver found it and turned it in. Thank goodness for honest people."
She turned to me and invited me to follow her into the Lab.
As she finished labelling the vials of blood she had withdrawn from me, I asked, "Do you like your job?"
She stopped. Checked the name on the vial against my sheet and hesitated before replying. "It's a job while I wait to get the one I want," she said.
"And what is that?" I asked.
"I'm a physician," she replied. She glanced around as if to check if any ears were listening. "I just passed my exams and soon I start working," she motioned to the hospital on the other side of the thoroughfare outside the window, "over there."
"Congratulations," I exclaimed. "That's terrific."
"Yes. It is." She hesitated again, trying to decide to add more or just to leave. She chose to continue talking. "I'm an immigrant. I practiced medicine in my country for twelve years and when I came here six years ago I had to requalify. And it's okay. There's always something new to learn and different places do it different ways. Soon, I can begin again to do what I love." She raised an arm and motioned to the lab we were in. "This place has at least kept me in the field I love."
"Do you have an area of specialty?" I asked.
Her smile expanded across her face like sunshine bursting over the horizon. "I'm an anaesthetist.... Why did you ask? No one has ever asked me that?"
"You're very good at what you do," I replied. "I wondered if it was because you love it."
"I love it because it's given me a chance to get to what I love to do again." She finished labelling the last vial. Deftly she applied a bandaid to the tiny pinprick where her needle had pierced my arm. She gathered up her papers and turned to leave.
"Thank you for asking," she said before walking away.
As I gathered up my coat and purse and prepared to leave, I glanced into the room next door and saw the woman from the waiting room sitting on a chair. She smiled and waved. I smiled back.
"You look really nice today," she said as I waved good-bye.
"Thank you." I replied and smiled. "I hope you have a really nice day that tastes as good as that Timmie's promises to be."
She laughed. "I'm just thankful to be able to live today and enjoy it!"
"When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. ~ Tecumseh
Last night, as I sat with my mother in her room at the clinic where they've now moved her for treatment, she opened the journal I bought her last week and read me the gratitude list she'd written that morning. "I'm grateful for this opportunity to get better," she said. "I'm grateful that these people are willing to help me and that my family loves me."
She closed her book and said, "I don't write the same thing every morning. I've so much to be grateful for, I don't want to repeat myself every day."
Gratitude. A simple gift of thankfulness that touches hearts and opens minds.
Today, I am grateful for the women who share their stories of strength, hope and courage. In their sharing they inspire me to learn and grow and to remain grateful for all that I have and all that I am.
The question is: What's on your gratitude list today?