“Quenby,” (I know it’s serious
when people say my first name) ...
“Quenby,” said the world-class neurosurgeon who just
happened to be on call the day I had a stroke nine days after
the birth of my daughter, Khaleesi.
Not a little numb-your-face stroke, but a subarachnoid
hemorrhage, a rare and deadly kind of bleeding stroke.
“Quenby (as I sat sobbing in his office, looking at a
completely clear scan of my brain on the big screen), did
you know that when Bill Gates was being interviewed they
asked him what the key to happiness was? This man with
so much influence and experience? Gratitude. Gratitude
was his response. We should appreciate our days, our
relationships, our time — because money comes and money
goes, things fade away, the present turns to past moment
by moment. But true, deep gratitude is the key to longevity,
and perhaps happiness.
“And I would wager to say
that you, Quenby, when you sit
down to Thanksgiving dinner
with your family this year, will
have more to be thankful for
than anyone else at that table.”
I was humbled.
I have never been a
particularly grateful type of
The word gratitude starts
to color our season like fake fruit in a cornucopia every fall,
and I have never been a fan. Of course I was thankful (or
so I thought), but it seemed so cliché, so . . . not my type of
thanks-giving — until this particular season of life swept in.
Now gratitude paints my days, for . . .
My son, Cooper, and his new found sense of humor; his
boyhood returning after life stressors had stolen his joy.
My daughter, Khaleesi, the way she feels as if she is
an extension of myself, another appendage that I would be
groping aimlessly without.
My partner, David, the strength and patience to lovingly
look upon me in the darkest of hours, and smile and find a
way to draw laughter out of an empty well. To have embraced
my son when I could not, to reassure him and give him a
sense of security as his world was unravelling. To love me and
hold me when I had no clue which way was up.
My family, the sound of my father’s footsteps walking
the hospital hallways to bring me an espresso every morning.
The pop-top keychain he brought me from the gift shop. My
mother, taking my tears to the streets, forcing me to walk off
my fear. David’s family and their parade of encouragement.
My big brother, the first voice I heard upon waking in
ICU, I could not see him but his voice brought me comfort.
My little sister, the yogi with all her silly new age crap that
she would send over via text or email followed up with “I love
you, I love you, I love you.”
And then my friends, (and you all know exactly who you
are), there are so many of you. I love you and one day hope
to embrace you like you embraced me. The swooping in and
scooping up of my slumped over soul — again and again, day
after day, turning my sorrows into laughter — sharing in this
long march out of the bog of disappointment.
And to the Maker, who gave me back everything I could
have lost, everything I was never truly grateful for because I
never knew how to be.
Perhaps you have been there, too.
Perhaps we all at some point need to lose our vision to
truly see again.
And for that I am truly thankful.
QUENBY SCHUYLER | Survivor
Saint Charles, Illinois
Clockwise from upper right: Quenby, stepdaughter Zoe, daughter
Khaleesi, son Cooper, stepson Austin, partner David