April’s Reminder

I do not really remember March last year. The ten days I spent in the hospital suffering from complications after appendicitis are lost in a fog of pain, nurses, doctors, visitors, and medical procedures. But there is one moment of clarity in my memory, clear despite the pain and drugs that blurred everything else.

I did not know much about hardship at that time, and the grey wretchedness of March might have smothered me if not for April: the hope of April, the encouragement of April, the warmth of April.

I was too sick to do anything but lie still in that large, white, hospital bed. Nights were hard for me, full of pain and vague, dark figures moving around my bed; nurses checking in and performing tests. But this happened in daytime, with golden sunlight streaming through the large windows to the left of my bed. I lay curled around on my right side, my back to the light. I felt terrible.

My mother was with me, wiping a cool, wet cloth over my fevered forehead. I looked up to see April bouncing through the door.

She was my short, round nurse with blond hair, sparkling eyes, and gentle hands.

She came over to my bed and asked, with her wide, warm smile, how I was feeling.

I remember being slightly annoyed. Couldn’t she see I was horribly sick and almost crying with pain? And here she was asking with a smile how I was feeling?

I answered that I was in pain, nauseated, and generally miserable, thank you very much.

To my surprise, instead of taking my vitals, she crouched down beside my bed so that her face was level with mine.

Her smile was gone, but her eyes were infinitely kind as she said, “Okay, Elisabeth. We know what is bad. But what is good? Finding the unpleasant things in life is easy. We all know what they are. But can you tell me what is wonderful, what is beautiful, what is delightful?”

I laughed at her, not believing she could be serious. But she was. Crouched down beside me, her steady gaze holding mine, she coaxed one good thing after another from me, before finally starting custom routine.

Her words stayed with me through the following months of slow recovery, many of which I spent sick in bed. I often thought of the challenge April gave me: to dwell not on what is bad, but on what is good. I was amazed at how quickly pain and self-pity obscured the lovely things in life. But when I made the effort to remember all that I had to be thankful for, my attitude changed, and the pain and misery diminished. It was a small gift April gave me, the unexpected light of gratitude, cutting through the miserable fog of March.