Mary Chapin Carpenter is a well-known singer/songwriter. She was one of the first female songwriters to gain notoriety for great songs. Not long ago she suffered a pulmonary embolism. She had been preparing to go out on tour. She had hired a band and crew and had booked dozens of dates. And then she developed severe chest pains. A trip to the ER and a scan later, she was told that there were blood
clots in her lung.
Everyone told her how lucky she was—that pulmonary embolisms frequently took the lives of those who suffered them. She remembered being familiar with the medical term, but she was not prepared for the fear and the depression that followed.
She had to cancel the tour, let her band and crew go and then just give herself time to heal and get well. “I tried”, she said, “to see my unexpected time off as a gift, but it turned out to be a curse. I couldn’t relax, I couldn’t concentrate, and I was filled with anxiety—all of the ingredients of the darkness of depression.”
Then she says a most unexpected act of grace occurred. She said such moments sometimes occur as a smile from a stranger or a phone call from a long, lost friend. “I found my lifeline at the grocery store” she said.
“One morning the young man who rang up my groceries and asked me if I wanted paper or plastic also told me to enjoy the rest of my day. I looked at him and I knew he meant it. I went out to my car and cried. What I want more than ever is to appreciate that I have THIS day, and tomorrow, and hopefully days beyond that. I am experiencing the learning curve of gratitude.”
She goes on to write that she no longer wants to be “robotic” about her life. “I don’t want to get mad at the elderly driver in front of me. I don’t want to go crazy when my internet freezes up. I don’t want to be jealous of someone else’s success. You could say that this litany of sins indicates that I don’t want to admit being human. The learning curve of gratitude, however, is showing me exactly how human I really am.”
She goes on to say that she doesn’t know if her doctors will ever be able to tell her why she had a life-threatening illness. But “I do know that the young man in that grocery store reminded me that every
day is all there is.”
“Tonight, I will cook dinner, tell my husband how much I love him, curl up with the dogs, watch the sun go down, and climb into bed. I will think about how uncomplicated it all is. And I will marvel at how it took me my whole life to appreciate just one day.”
Kristin Clark-Banks is the pastor of Forest Hills UMC.