Last week I received a random email via my website. As many random emails I receive, it started simply with a “I don’t know if you remember me but…”
This email was from someone who thought I wouldn’t remember them. This email was from someone that went through great lengths to find me on the internet and explain their connection with me in hopes of jogging my memory. This person had no idea she was already ingrained in my heart and I would never forget her kindness.
She was one of the physical therapists that helped me regain my strength and mobility after my plane crash in 1995. What makes me remember her was how she made me feel. No matter how cranky I had been from being cooped up in my hospital room all day, no matter how sad I had been from looking over pictures of my parents who I lost in the senseless plane crash, no matter what self pity or negativity was going through my mind; she and her partner always knew how to make me smile. With every physical therapy session I left refreshed and elevated in spirit. They always made me laugh, they always encouraged me to push harder and they always made me feel like I was going to conquer all the roadblocks that the plane crash had thrown my way. Her name is Jill.
For quite a few days the goal had been for me to get out of my wheel chair and use my walker to stroll the entire length of the ICU hallway. It started with only 3-4 steps at a time that I could handle. The residents were conducting their rounds that morning and one of the residents was a friend. We waved at him from my wheelchair and I hollered out “Hey watch me! I’m gonna walk down the hall!” He was engaged to my friend’s older sister who was a sorority sister of mine so he was a friendly face that I used to look forward to seeing. With Jill’s help I slowly stood from the wheelchair and grabbed my walker. But when I stood up, something unexpected and extremely embarrassing happened. I pee’d myself! I was mortified! I pee’d myself in front of my friend’s future brother-in-law! I pee’d down my leg in my hospital gown in front a group of young medical school residents that weren’t much older than I was! The worse part is that I couldn’t stop peeing! Like a nightmare, only it was real life. My own mortifying Poseidon Adventure. I immediately reached back for my wheelchair handle and wanted to sit back down and be whisked back to my room. Here I was telling them all “WATCH ME!” and instead of giving them a heroic walk, I did THAT.
Jill helped clean me up and saw that I was crying from embarrassment. Earlier that morning my catheter had been removed, after nearly two months while I was immobile in my hospital bed. For those lucky enough NOT to know what a catheter, it’s a narrow tube inserted to your bladder to allow immobile people to use the restroom without ever having to wake up or move to physically use a toilet. She reassured me that I had nothing to be embarrassed about because the reason I lost control when I stood up was because after using the cathetor for 2 months I had loss all muscle control to be able to “hold” it. Even as I write this I am cringing at the thought. Not only did she comfort me with reassuring me that the mechanics of my plumbing would get stronger and I wouldn’t be going through that again much longer; she also reminded me that all those residents knew exactly why it happened and that I should be proud of how much I had accomplished the past couple of months.
She helped transform one of the most embarrassing moments in my life into one of the most self assuring moments of my life. She made me feel pride. She made me smile. She made me feel grateful for every little thing that was happening to me and through me in that point in my life. So yes, I remember her. I will always remember her — not for her exact words, but for how she made me feel. She always showed up to work and make me feel better about myself. Her email brought all that back to me. It makes me wonder, how do I make people feel? Do I make them feel good about themselves? Do I give them hope? Do I make them feel happy?
Making others feel good is more than just putting a smile on your face and whistling while you work — it’s about stepping back from your own worldly preoccupations and giving the best of you to those around you. In the process of giving your best to others, you elevate your own spirits and outlook. Do you give the best of yourself to those in your workday, then come home exhausted and give what little is left over to your friends and family? How would that make YOU feel? I’m so thankful Jill randomly reached out to me this week. She left an imprint on me so many years ago and I hope you are surrounded by many Jills in your life too. When people leave spending time with you, do they feel elevated in spirit? Do they feel better about themselves?
Like the great Maya Angelou famously said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”