Breathing Again

Now for one of our favorite parts of the month: story time with Becky Allender. Today, Becky shares a story that’s both frightening and hilarious—about a new home, a breathing emergency, and that particular form of memory that runs a whole gamut of conflicting emotions. This post originally appeared over at Red Tent Living.


A dear friend gave us a plaque that said, “Home is where your story begins.” It is also where we live, suffer, and tell the stories that matter to us. Home is where we are called to remember all that has transpired under our roof and to anticipate another home that will be the glory we long for most.

After we moved into our seventh home (which was our fifteenth move) I knew the importance of getting house numbers on our house. But the exhaustion of the move had taken a toll on me, and the hardware store was one of those things I hadn’t checked off my list.

It seemed we hit the ground running with this move—and this included little margin for Dan and his travel and teaching schedule. Why I chose this Sunday morning to plead for a little peace and quiet, I do not know. But I did, and little did I realize the terror that was soon to take place.

“Hey, Dan, why don’t you try out our new bathtub? Maybe it could be a Sabbath ritual to receive some calmness into your week. I will bring up your coffee and give you time to soak in the beauty of this morning.”

When I walked back into the bathroom with a mug of steaming coffee, I was taken back to a scene from our trip to SeaWorld Orlando. Our children loved Shamu and felt especially chosen when they were splashed upon by the killer whale’s tail after breaching. But what I was witnessing now was not in a water park! Who flops into a bathtub like Shamu? I froze, time stood still, and I zoomed in on every droplet of water erupting all over the floor and onto all four walls of our new bathroom! With eyes aghast I chose not to furiously scold Dan’s unaware behavior and laughed instead. Then, all of a sudden, pain struck my throat and with our eyes locked onto one another I gasped, unsuccessfully, for breath.

It was one of those moments when reality turns frightening and both people jump into action without explanation. My “airways” were completely and furiously locked. I was in agony—possibly more pain than I had ever felt in my life! Add the trauma of gasping for breath and not finding any. Dan leapt towards me to do the Heimlich maneuver, which only added even greater fear. I instinctively knew that if he started the Heimlich on me in my panicked state, I would really “lose it”—my body was telling me that that was not the problem.

There we were, both naked, Dan dripping more water on the floor! Fear and trauma were like loud sirens inside our heads. I was frightfully struggling for one teeny breath of air; but as tight as the deadbolt on our new front door, no air came in. Time stood still. I flailed my arms in pain while waving, “No, no, no that is not what I need. Don’t do that to me!” My next thought was, “Dear God, do I even have to instruct someone what to do as I am dying?”

Fear and trauma were like loud sirens inside our heads.

I staggered into our bedroom, pointed at the phone, and oddly remembered my failure to purchase four wrought iron numbers from the hardware store. I collapsed to the floor thinking this was “it,” and also imagining how horrific this will be when our houseguests wake up to a siren and two naked bodies on the floor!

Then it happened! I was able to take a sip, a small sip, of delicious and holy air.

Dan stopped talking and dropped the phone. Our eyes once again “locked” on each other, and he watched as I haltingly took another teeny sip of air. Delicious, beautiful, life-saving oxygen!

Before we knew it, I was breathing again! We soon were laughing together uproariously because I was alive but had been thinking, ever so briefly, that my life was soon to be over. Our Sunday morning was as bright as the sun streaming into our windows.

We told our story to Lottie when she came for breakfast. Tears of wonder were moist in our eyes. Then Robin came in and we told her of our scary and holy morning experience. As only Robin can, she listened and made us laugh even harder, saying that when the ambulance driver would have knocked on our door, she would have greeted them and said, “Sorry, no emergency here. You have the wrong house!”

A few months later after Dan had esophageal surgery, the surgeon came to the waiting room to let me know how Dan was doing. Before he left, I told him about my frightening experience. He listened and with kind eyes, he said, “You experienced a laryngospasm, which is an uncontrolled, involuntary muscular contraction of the vocal cords. It is very painful. But if this happens again, you will pass out and that will allow the vocal cords to relax. You most likely won’t die.”

How quickly an ordinary morning can change in an instant. I have never forgotten the pain and fear intertwined with laughter at Shamu in our new home. As I go to take a bath to end my day, I look at the holy altar, our bathtub, and let the memories feed like the first tastes of a Thanksgiving Day feast. “Whatever you eat or drink, do all things to the glory of God.”