I would see her often. I passed by her house on the way to the 10-mile circuit I rode daily on my bicycle. She would smile and wave. She was a nurse, and she knew my case. She knew I had been diagnosed with cancer.
Chemotherapy and radiation were followed by major surgery. I had the surgery at the hospital where she worked. I experienced a setback after the surgery. This meant I was bedridden for a time. I had come from being unable to get out of bed to being able to ride my bike past her house. This nurse knew how far I had come, so she smiled and waved.
About a year after surgery, I found myself clothed in a hospital gown, sitting on the edge of a hospital gurney. This same nurse was taking my history and vitals. I was preparing for yet another procedure.
When she was finished, she put everything aside. She looked intently at me and said, "You are a walking miracle."
I laughed and said, "You should have seen me when I wasn't walking around so good."
Apparently she didn't get the joke, because she didn't laugh. She looked serious. She said, "No. You are a walking miracle. For anyone to go through what you went through and come out healthy is a miracle. You need to thank God."
At this point I realized some things. One, I must have been worse off than I thought. Two, some nurses don't have a sense of humor. Three, she was right.
Through my experience with life-threatening disease, I learned to be thankful for each day and for being able to do the simplest daily tasks. Colon cancer is the No. 2 killer, but it is highly treatable when detected early. My disease was detected early.
The treatment was difficult and debilitating, but it was successful. I was a hospice chaplain at the time of my diagnosis and treatment. I visited people who died from the disease with which I was diagnosed. I attended their funerals.
I know I am blessed to be alive.
A few years later, on my feet and pain free, I slip into taking things for granted. I easily become like the proverbial hog that roots around eating acorns without looking up to see the tree from which the acorns fall.
However, every day there is a reminder of some sort that makes me grateful all over again. That day at the hospital was one such reminder given to me by that nurse.
Fortunately, God is not gracious to me only to the extent I am grateful to him. God is good to all, the thankful and the unthankful. It is when I realize God's goodness that I respond. Faith sees God's goodness, and the response is gratitude. I don't remember what procedure I had that day at the hospital. It was one of many.
I do, however, remember that nurse's words. Thank God for people, like that nurse, who waken faith and cause me to remember God's goodness.
Deacon Scott Watford is pastoral associate at St. Nicholas of Myra Catholic Church.