When the Doing Has to Stop
01 April 1999

By nature I am what Australians call a 'doer', not a contemplative.

By nature I am what Australians call a 'doer', not a contemplative. Sitting still, reading a book, was not my strong point.

About three years ago I was in end-stage renal failure and very ill. I could barely walk around the block, and life was a continual struggle. For over two years I was on dialysis, a process by which the blood is purified. I felt tied to the machine, and on the three days of the week when I went to the hospital for five hours' treatment, I always came away with a rotten headache.

In January 1998 I visited the surgeon expecting to have a kidney transplant a week later. But it was not to be. One of my kidneys was bleeding heavily. Forty-eight hours later it was out -- and I faced a three-month recuperation period, still on dialysis.

Eventually the new date for the transplant came. My brother, who was giving me the incredible gift of a healthy kidney, my husband and I went to see our church minister to prepare for the event. He suggested we consider what things we were grateful for, what we were afraid of, what we looked forward to. Looking at what I was grateful for, my immediate thought was 'dialysis'! I was surprised, but realized that it had enabled me to go on living and to see my son through his last year of school, my daughter through her second-last, and so many other things. And I was also thankful, of course, to my brother.

On 28 April we went back to hospital and this time I received the kidney. We drew strength from the fact that our family and many friends were praying for us. And what a gift the kidney has been! The very next morning I felt completely transformed, even though I had bags hanging off me everywhere. I wanted to get up and run.

From that day I have never looked back. Of course my brother and I have had to go through the normal pain of recovery from surgery, but it was like being given a new life. I realize how precious life is and I will never take it for granted again.

As the months have gone on I have done more and more. And now as I swim up and down the local pool I marvel at it all. Before Christmas life became too full at times, a pressure cooker of events. Then I remembered the years when I could do so little and had to learn to say no to many things, to sit and read instead of doing, and that it had actually been a precious experience. So I said no, I won't let life run me, get frantic and overwhelmed. I will choose those quiet moments. I will choose to value people more than achieving things and to remember that life is meant to be a celebration and that the quality of how I live is more important than how much I manage to get done.
by Barbara Williams

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