Collateral Damage

“Has anything changed since you last saw the doctor?”
“Where do I begin?” I thought.
She handed me the clipboard and the standard form, which I proceeded to fill out. Last Name. First Name. Address.
Married, Single, Divorced, Widowed.
“No box for div-vidowed,”  I laughed as I thought of this term a friend of mine came up with, which so aptly described my situation.

Let’s see, I’m single. True.
I’m divorced, True. But since he died so quickly afterwards. It’s not like he’s around for gathering information. He’s certainly not paying for anything.
I’m not widowed, because even though he died, he was re-married to someone else. Right.
But divorced doesn’t seem right.  Sounds like he’s still around.
I’m clearly giving this way too much thought. I’ve got to move on.
Divorced or Single? Which one is it? Ah! This is like a test!!
Divorced it is. Check.

I continued on with the standard form. Then there it was.
The dreaded box. Worse than the marital status box.

The Emergency Contact.
Um…well, let’s see…
Oh shoot. I’ll just leave that blank.

But the intake nurse wasn’t having that.
“…and who is your emergency contact?”
“I don’t have one.”
As it flew out of my mouth, I wished I would’ve whispered it. 
A few of the nearby nurses looked up from their screens.
Their stares said, “What in the world?!”

The intake nurse was trying to be kind — and still do her job. She looked down at the “married, single, divorced, widowed” boxes.
“How about your parents?”
“They live thousands of miles away.”
“Anybody at work?”
“I just started there. I hardly know anyone on that level.”
“Haven’t met anyone. I just moved in a few months ago.”

I was growing impatient.
Please just say it’s ok and that we’ll let it slide this time.
Why is this such a big deal?
So what?  I don’t have an emergency contact.
Oh, I see where you’re going with this. What you’re saying is that my situation here is pretty pathetic.  I’m not loved by anyone.  And I have no friends in my new town.

“Well, ma’am.  You have to have an emergency contact,” she said as quietly as she could. I took the clipboard back, scribbled down one of my parents’ names and crawled to the waiting room chairs.

It’s what I call “collateral damage.”
It’s all these little losses that come with a bigger loss of life. Like divorce or death.
Sure, it’s not the worst thing that happens.  But it’s these little things that keep scratching away at the hurt.

My life was beginning to settle down. But like rusty barbed wire, Satan kept using these “little” losses to make me feel unloved, hopeless and abandoned. Having no emergency contact that day was another of his victories.

I realized that was not going to change. Even if I some day remarried, my life was forever altered. I would always be “divorced.” That part of me would never, ever be different.

That day – there in the sitting room – I felt really, really alone.
Not sad, necessarily. The sadness would only come when I re-wound the tape and remembered what made me become alone. But that day, I just really felt “by myself.”

I was scared more than anything.
What if something happened to me? Who would come? Who would they call?

Lord, if that happens and I don’t have an emergency contact, will you help figure it all out? Get word to my sons?  My family so far away? My work? I know that you would figure that out, Lord. I’m not going to worry myself sick because I don’t have an emergency contact right now.  I have so many other things to think about…
And so I assumed He would take care of it should that happen. (I assume a lot from God to help me not worry about things I can’t change.)

But, it is so true about the little things. The value of something, seemingly small, is increased once it’s taken away.  It’s so small, I usually don’t even notice it’s around. Like when the internet is down and I can’t get anything done at work. When it comes back up, at least for the first hour – I’m singing the praises of the internet working! Yay! But by the end of the day, I’ve forgotten all about it.

I broke my finger a few years ago in an accident at the gym. It didn’t take me long to realize how many things I couldn’t do because of the injured finger and the annoying splint that came with it. Since I do a lot of typing on my job, I was quickly reminded that the letter “e” is the most frequently used letter in the English alphabet. Because it was that finger that was broken. One little finger. “Never again,” I thought,  “will I under take advantage all ten of my fingers working.” But, here I am. My fingers flying over the keyboard in and under-appreciated speed. (Nine “e”s in that last sentence.)

And so it is with divorce.  The little things that you lose make you appreciate them so much more when they come back into your life.

I remarried a few years ago to a wonderful, Excellent Man. We both have a keen level of appreciation for these little things, because we’ve lost so much through divorce. My Excellent Man is much better about expressing his appreciation for these little things than I am.

The other day he told me that when I snore and wake him up (so sexy…), he looks over and thinks about how happy he is that I’m there in bed next to him. Then…he nudges me to roll over so I’ll be quiet! How can anyone be so appreciative in a moment of utter annoyance? I think it’s because his loss was so great.

A few weeks ago, he spent some time in the emergency room with a horrible case of vertigo. He told me several times how glad he was that I was at the gym with him when it happened.  And how great it was to look out as they were closing the ambulance doors and see my car there ready to follow him to the hospital. Now some couples would probably say that.  But here’s the difference: He thanked me for being there. Several times, he THANKED me.

And we could add to that list of little things almost every day.

You see for those of us that have lost so much, we lost the whole package that comes with “two becoming one”.  If you’ve been married longer than, say, 10 years, I doubt you’re going to thank your spouse for holding your head while you puke your guts out, right? And that the spouse it the one who goes to pick up the prescription. It’s just sort of assumed that you do that. But for us…it’s a treasure. We’re always thinking back to a time when no one was there. When we were cleaning up our own puke. And wondering if we’re going to make it to the pharmacy and back.

Or sitting somewhere trying to explain to an intake nurse why we don’t have an emergency contact.

Again, these aren’t the big things in life. They’re certainly not the big things on the list of why I chose to spend the rest of my life with this Excellent Man. But they are the little things that I think we would otherwise have overlooked.

I’m grateful that God has shown me that through some of this collateral damage, there is also an extreme level of appreciation.  Maybe only those that have lost so much can truly appreciate them. I’m glad that I remarried someone who lost at least as much as I did. He understands all these little, wonderful things are part of the standard package when “two become one.”

And he loves me for bringing those with me.
And he thanks me.

And so it is when I fill out a form.
I smile and laugh with delight inside my soul.
Thank you God. He is so much more than that. But today. In this moment. With pen and clipboard. I’m thanking you for my emergency contact.

And yes, I’m tempted each time to strut up to the counter, return the clipboard and say, “You see that right there?  That’s right…uh huh…I have an emergency contact…”
Fist bump to the nurse.





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