Tuesday, May 19, 2009

air, where hath thou gone?

When I was a young girl, I had an impossible ongoing debate with my mother. The foundation of such divide: I believed I could see air. Yes, you got that right, AIR. No matter how many ways she tried to tell me that air was invisible, I insisted. "You may not be able to but, I, obviously am more special because I can see air.
(I know what you're thinking: "you are special alright" ;-)

Having grown just a teeny bit, I have come to value the existence of air in a completely different way. It's invisibility is now often felt rather than seen.

As a teenager, I distinctly remember watching my mother clutch my baby sister in her arms as she coughed, wheezed, and gasped for air. She would take my sister into the steamy bathroom where we all waited as time stood still for her to breathe normal again.

It was not for want of seeking medical attention that my sister's asthma went undiagnosed for years. But like my grandmother who treated mostly with natural remedies, my mother employed any and all natural remedies at her disposal to keep my sister breathing, alive. Years later when my sister was finally diagnosed with asthma, we were introduced to the nebulizer.

Although the years slowly went by, every spring when my seasonal allergies were in hyperactivity, I would notice that it felt like someone was sitting on my chest. That person grew noticeably heavier each year and the simple act of breathing became a bit more challenging. Air, where hath thou gone? I went to see my sister's allergist in search of an answer and was told that I had asthma.

Although I had not given much thought before to asthma in and of itself, it was now brought to the forefront of consciousness. My aunt, who I could relate to on every conceivable level, also lived with asthma. She and my sister were invaluable in my crash course education. We began having in-depth discussions, especially following an episode, and in great detail we would explain what an asthma attack felt like. Some how, listening alone, was enough.

I now can never forget when my aunt was having an awful week with seemingly nonstop asthma attacks about eight years ago. She went to the hospital to seek medical attention. She was released shortly thereafter as she emerged from immediate distress. That night, as was custom, we spoke on the telephone.

She described the preceeding asthma attack in these exact words:

"Girl, it felt like I was taking my last breath."

"Auntie, don't worry. You know that's how it feels," I said. "Make sure tonight you have the medicine already set up in your nebulizer. Go to bed and get some rest. I'll call you in the morning to see how you're feeling then. I love you."

Around 2 a.m. the next day, my aunt had her final asthma attack. She took her last breath at home, on the nebulizer, waiting for the ambulance to arrive.


beth said...

I spent nights awake listening to my son trying to breathe when his asthma was horrible in his younger years....and a few nights in the emergency room !!

air....what an amazing gift it is !!

iasa said...


christina said...

I keep you in thoughts, always. I send you light and peace.

PS: What a beautiful picture.

Wanda said...

Oh, my. How painful. I am so sorry.

I can see air, too. If you look just right, you can (anyone can) see the prana in the air. Truly.

Gayle said...

Oh, Se'Lah. How sad. I'm so sorry.

margie said...

i want to see that air in your lungs!! easily. remember that g*d gave us miraculous bodies and that we must care for them. do not push yourself farther than it is able to go right now. NOTHING is more important that caring for yourself, for that is ultimately caring for everyone around you. love you.

MaryAnne said...

What a sad story. Asthma can be such a frightening disease.

I still think you can see air - I thought so as a kid, too.

Thanks for visiting my blog the other day...

Operaton You said...

I often have the pleasure of hearing such beautiful stories and thoughts of your Auntie. I know your daughter is her namesake. I know how special she is to you.. I'm just so sorry it took me so long to read such a heat felt story. I'm sooo sorry about your Auntie..

This story touch my heart and it is written so beautifully and with such sweet passion. Sometimes, we can see air, but we can hear it, feel it and retrieve it. It is our life force! Thanks for sharing the story of someone who meant the world to you. I know she is saying, you keep breathing deeply to heal your body forever! Love you sisterfriend!

Katie in MA said...

It's like trying to scoop water up through your hands, only with your fingers splayed open. You almost get a hold of it and you try to pull that air in and then you realize that you missed it. It didn't "catch" on the intake. ::cough::cough:: Try again. And again. And again. I got good at not panicking...until it was my girl trying to breathe. I would gladly trade my air for hers.

Ms. G said...

That's so very sad.

Lisa Johnson said...

Oh no. I'm so sorry. There are so many medicines and treatments that we see advertised on tv. It makes it seem like most asthma is controlled, so it seems especially shocking when someone dies from an attack.

sunnymama said...

How sad. Thank you so much for raising my awareness of asthma. I didn't really know much about it before but the posts you've written about its effect have been very enlightening. I think after reading this I shall be more appreciate of the air around us, whether I see it or not! I hope you are well and breathing easily :)

Toni said...

Se'Lah, I've had your post opened up for the last two days, because it looked to be an important message and I didn't want to forget to read it. I'm glad I was finally able to read it tonight. It was an important message in so many ways - asthma awareness, loss, love and taking none of it for granted.

I'm so sorry about your aunt. No matter how much time has passed, the feeling of loss still resides within. Take comfort in the knowledge that your last words to her were words of love. It can never be said often enough.