The Pulse


What's in Your Trash?

by Patrick Reynolds

One of the most inspiring things about the Kenzai community is how many thoughtful, well-written posts are uploaded every day. But it's all too easy to miss these gems in the hustle and flow of the Kenzai stream. 

Foreword from Patrick:

This year I'm making an effort to surface great blog posts so that a larger audience can enjoy and be moved by them. This piece is an edited and reprinted post from one of our staff's blogs in late 2014. Thanks to Renfield for being so open and sharing this powerful story with us.




The phone call came from my brother: mom was in a horrific car accident, in intensive care in the hospital, in a coma. 
I flew out to New York on the weekend to find my mom in a GCS (Glasgow Coma Scale) of 3: the lowest score possible. She suffered massive head and organ trauma; heart, lungs, and kidneys failing rapidly, brain swollen and bleeding, wholly un-functioning. She passed away shortly after I arrived, surrounded by friends and family. 

So, that sucked.

My mom was not a healthy woman. She suffered from adult onset diabetes and took terrible care of herself; she was overweight, out of breath, and had various ailments including high blood pressure, arthritis, numerous food allergies, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and a bad back that required major surgery after which she could still barely walk. She ate terribly and exercised never, and smoked for over half of her life.

The cause of the accident is unclear, but apparently on a clear and open section of the freeway, mom just drove right off the road, through a guardrail, and into a tree. This happened on the evening of Thanksgiving, returning from a meal at which she likely ate badly and didn’t maintain her blood sugar. The going theory is that she had a diabetic seizure whilst driving.

Cleaning out her apartment, I filled an entire trash bag with prescription medication and insulin, and another trash bag with supplements and medical-related supplies; lances to check blood (boxes and boxes of them, un-opened and unused), a blood pressure monitor (also un-opened, unused), vitamins, pain medicine, lotions... She spent a significant amount of her retirement pension on stuff she would not have needed if she simply took better care of herself earlier in life.

I'm not criticizing my dead mom; we had many, many conversations about her health. She did stop smoking and made other lifestyle changes that helped significantly. But she also had gotten so far down a lifestyle path that, at 70 years old, it was no longer possible to change course, and she made peace with that.

She enjoyed her life; she ate the foods she loved and pursued her (non-strenuous) hobbies of knitting and quilting with a passion bordering on obsessive. She was surrounded by supportive friends and is missed by many.

If only there was a way to see how things would have turned out if she had made different choices!

Interestingly enough, there is.

My mother is survived by an identical twin sister, who was also in the car accident. My aunt and mom are genetically basically the same person. My aunt suffered significantly less severe injuries and is well on her way to making a full recovery.

If only there was a way to see how things would have turned out if she had made different choices! Interestingly enough, there is

Unlike my mom who spent her life driving around the suburbs, my aunt lives in a big city, walking and riding subways and buses. My aunt never smoked, unlike my mom who smoked for decades. And my aunt always eats salads and grilled foods, whereas my mom would go for cheesed and fried every time.

Those lifestyle choices made all the difference in the world; just a few weeks before the accident I was visiting my mom and aunt in the city, and we spent the afternoon walking and shopping. While auntie was raring to go, mom was breathing hard and had to sit and rest after one block.

I think about all of this as I clean out my mom's place, filling trash-bags full of medicine and medical supplies, and I do the only thing I can do: I reflect on my own life.

I imagine my kids cleaning out my place after I've died. What are they going to put into the trash? My prescriptions and supplements, walker and wheelchair, my cane and my orthopedic shoes?

Or will they fill a dumpster with push-up bars, exercise shorts and t-shirts, resistance bands and running sneakers?

Will my fridge be stocked with frozen cheesecakes and insulin, or fresh fruits and vegetables?

I love and I miss my mom, and I always wished she was in better shape so that she could be around as long as possible to see her grand-kids grow up.

I can’t avoid random tragedy, but I can do everything possible to ensure I have the best chance of living long and healthy regardless of what happens.

My mom has taught me many things in life, and I am thankful for this last lesson from her.



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