Last September I was called home, somewhat unexpectedly.
I was called home to be a mother to my children, just when I had imagined they might no longer need me.
I had left behind the hold-me-all-the-time baby stage, the watch-me-all-the-time toddler stage and the guide-me-all-the-time preschool and early elementary stage.
I had entered into the be-there-when-I-need-you stage. The “time to leave the nest” stage. The “just got my driver’s permit” stage. The “can you make me mac & cheese when I come home from playing with my friends” stage.
I was not unfamiliar with the be-there-when-I-need-you concept. I spent many years simultaneously ‘on call’ for my patients and my children:
- Studying as a medical student, family medicine, public health and preventive medicine resident,
- Caring for prisoners as the medical director at the county jail,
- Caring for patients in private medical practice,
- Teaching medical students and family practice residents,
- Working as a medical advisor.
Over the years, my professional roles changed, surging and fading like the tide. Usually, one role would quickly be replaced by another. Last September, I found that the tide had turned in a more permanent fashion when, due to budget cuts, I lost my final job in the “traditional” medical field.
In the aftermath of last September’s loss, I continued my small integrative private practice, my writing and my Dr. Lisa radio gigs–all of which had been minimally compensated.
And I also kept that most important of gigs: the uncompensated be-there-when-I-need-you mothering gig.
Did I worry about money? Of course. I did, and I still do. Medical school was not inexpensive, as I am reminded each month when the loan statements are delivered to my mailbox. College will not be inexpensive for my son next year, after he returns from his post-high-school volunteer year in Guatemala. Nor will college be inexpensive for my other daughters in three and eight years.
But money is not everything. Or really even much of anything.
What is everything? My children, my dear one, my parents, my brothers and sisters, my other relatives, my friends, my colleagues, my patients.
The people that I know and love are everything.
Which I am reminded often, but especially on days like the anniversary of 9/11, when so many people lost their own everything: their children, their spouses, their parents, their siblings, their relatives, their friends, their colleagues, their patients.
How can I be anything but grateful for having the privilege of being called home last year, to my be-there-when-I-need-you children?
I have everything.
And when I am called to that other home at the end of my own life, like those who died on September 11 a decade ago, I believe I will have everything again.