Friday, January 23rd, 2009 - 11:41pm
I woke up and got in the shower to get ready to head to the visitation — Friday morning, January 22nd, 1999 was the last day before the funeral service for my mother’s mother (Granny) who had passed away on the 20th, the day after my grandfather’s birthday.
I took some water from the shower into my mouth and spat it out. It didn’t feel right. I did it again — still, didn’t feel right. I couldn’t quite place what was different, and carried on. As I exited the shower, Kathryn handed me a glass of juice. I brought the glass to my lips and took a sip, at which point I found myself covered in OJ. Something was wrong. I thought that maybe my face was just asleep — similar to when a foot, or hand falls asleep. I tried to tell Kathryn something was wrong, but I couldn’t speak properly.
The entire left side of my head from the neck up was completely paralyzed. No movement. Nothing at all.
I remembered at the visitation the night before telling my best friend in the entire world, Graham Turner, and my family that I felt a bizarre headache behind my left ear. It wasn’t like any headache I’d felt before, but I didn’t have any other way to describe it. And why was it behind my left ear? I attributed it simply to me being tired and stressed and thought nothing more of it. Until the next morning when I thought I had experienced a stroke.
It took me three months away from my full-time, high school teaching job to recover from what was termed Bell’s Palsy. The doctors said my immune system was vulnerable due to lack of sleep, and several other factors. When Granny passed away, my body wasn’t able to properly fight a viral infection I had picked up, and my 7th cranial nerve was completely destroyed — eaten through by what must have been the most carnivorous virus known to humans.
Eventually I got better and was able to return to teaching. But really, from that point on, I questioned everything about what was important in life and what I wanted to do with mine. With great clarity I pronounced that relative health is one of our most precious gifts, and that I was going to take steps to ensure that I held on to mine.
And with that I left teaching to start my own business — first, as a contract trainer (putting my teaching background to good use was a logical first step) and, second, as a web developer to scratch that itch I initially felt when I was building web based resources for colleagues and students starting in about 1994.
I simply wouldn’t be where I am today if Granny hadn’t passed away ten years ago, on January 20th, 1999. Her passing was, quite literally, a life-changing experience.
As I sit here, in Toronto, my father’s mother (we called her Nen-nen) having just passed away early in the morning on January 23rd, 2009 (almost 10 years to the day after Granny died) I can’t help but wonder what the next ten years will hold for each of us.