Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

Living One Day at a Time

Dr. Al Larson

written 10/17/2012
The wall of my hospital room was gone. All I could see was a field of stars and the blackness of space. My hospital bed was gone. Behind my right shoulder I could feel, but could not see, my dead father, aunt, uncle, son, and brother-in-law. They asked me, "Do you want to come?"

I knew they were talking about dying. For five days I had lain in a hospital bed with half my blood spilled into my gut from a torn kidney cyst. My cadre of five doctors gathered at the foot of my bed twice a day, shook their heads, and talked in low voices that I could not understand. Their dilemma was that if they tried surgery, I would bleed out before they found the source of my bleed. So they waited, hoping my body would heal itself, and kept five units of blood on standby for an emergency transfusion.

"I'm not done yet!" I told my soul group. And then I fell back asleep, aided by the morphine.

The next day I recalled my out of body experience. It was as real as any memory of any other event in my life. I realized that unless I did something, I was going to die there in that hospital bed. So with a great effort, a lot of pain, and some dizziness, I forced myself to stagger the five feet to the toilet. I was exhausted when I crawled back in bed.

Over the next two days, I forced my self to walk, eventually getting down the hall to the end of the ward. I was discharged and sent home. Riding home, slumped limply in the passenger seat, I remember thinking how beautiful the dirt on the edge of the road was. I thanked God that I was alive.

From that day onward I have daily thanked God for my extra days, and asked Him for an equal number more. My event was December 5, 1999. Today I thank God for twelve years, ten months, and twelve extra days. And I ask Him for twelve years, ten months, and twelve days more. But I will be grateful for even one day more.

Each morning, when I open my eyes, the first thing I say to myself is "I'm still alive. Thank God." Then I stand up, and head for the bathroom. I thank God that I can walk. I pee. I thank God that my plumbing works. I look around my bedroom, and notice my sleeping wife. I thank God for her, her health, and her love. I notice our two cockers, both still asleep. I give thanks for the joy they bring to our lives.

As I get dressed and begin my day, I ask myself "If I die today, have I done everything I really wanted to do?" At one time, there were a few big items on that list, like trips abroad. We did them. Then there were lesser items, like renovating our home to put it in good condition for many years. Lately there are fewer things that I really want to do. Yet as God gives me more time, new opportunities arise; like another summer when we can camp in Colorado's High Country, so they make the list.

I try to make each extra day count. I want to really live today. I want to focus on what really matters. When worries creep in, I delegate them to God, at least for today. So often I've found that when I do this, what was a worry today is revealed tomorrow as a needless waste of energy.

Every extra day I have, I feel God gave me for some purpose. Many years ago I decided my purpose for living was helping others. So every day I try to help someone a bit, even if it is just a friendly hello, asking how they are, cracking a joke, and making them feel just a little bit better. If I'm lucky I can get a smile out of them.

If I can help in other ways, I try to do that too. Many times I discover a problem they have that I've dealt with, so I offer not advice, but the knowledge of what I found worked for me. Life's a foggy bog, and we get through it together by shouting out where the quicksand is, and where there's solid ground.

I do not waste my energy getting angry. Anger just causes high blood pressure and pain. I make no effort to change other people's minds. It takes way too much energy. I have no desire to fix them. My job is to fix me.

I hate nothing. Hate is a cancer that destroys the hater. I love all creatures, great and small, including all the other people who share this planet. I accept that we may disagree on things, but that does not require any action on my part. Love conquers all.

I pretty much ignore what other people say about me. Good things give me an unworthy swelled head. Bad things could discourage or anger me. Inside, I know the truth. I am a child of the Most High God, doing my best, one day at a time.

I find God in all things - each twig, each leaf, each rock. Every day the mystery of life surrounds me. I constantly marvel at it, and know that someone far greater than us created it.

My God did not just create the universe. He IS the universe. And each living thing, including me, is a part of that God.

Everywhere I look, I see beauty. I love to build things, and thank God for my talent. But I am humbled when I recall that I can not build a tree. I marvel at growing things, like tomatoes in my greenhouse, flowers in our planters, and yes, even weeds in the lawn.

When I hear a bird sing, my soul leaps for joy. When I hear a person sing, my soul gives thanks for God's gift of music. This is especially true of my sister in law Linda, and my wife Nancy.

How wonderful that God has given us these living, magical things, for which I give thanks. And I am reminded of the lesson for us all - nourish all things, especially children.

Each day, I focus on everything positive that I can. I notice all the good things around me. When we take our cockers for a walk in the park, I soak in the sunshine, the fresh air, the joy of Scout and Scamp and their ever wagging tales. I thank God that I am walking, and that Nancy is walking. I went through a 19 month ordeal of a pinched nerve, a broken ankle that didn't heal, and two surgeries to repair it. So I deeply appreciate each step. Nancy went though a 13 month ordeal with a foot ulcer that required two surgeries and some good orthodics to get her back on here feet. So we both give thanks that we are again both walking, upright, simultaneously, at once, together.

I routinely reflect back on my life, and give thanks for all the good days I've had. I reflect on raising our children, and how proud I am that they turned out so well. I give thanks for family and friends. I especially give thanks that Nancy and I have weathered many challenges together. We did so by taking each challenge one day at a time, wrapping it in love, and accepting that God, not us, was in control.

Some days I get discouraged about one thing or another. To pick my self up I say to myself, "Remember who you are." I remember the things I've done that were good. And I tell myself, "Well done." Even God did that when He created heaven and earth.

As I get ready for bed, I give thanks for all that this day was, both good and bad. And I think how great it will be to get a good night's sleep, and wake up to another day. Sometimes I remember the prayer I learned as a child. It still applies.

"Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take."

If I do die before morning, I'm ready. I've had a long and good life. Death will be a new adventure. And on the other side, I know my soul group waits for me.

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