Amid the beeping and prodding all around me, two things became clear: I was running on hospital basement mochas and Jon Kabat-Zinn.

My husband was in the Shock Trauma ICU of the University of Maryland Medical Center, recovering from fibula flap jaw reconstruction surgery for a rare aggressive noncancerous tumor called an ameloblastoma. It took a team of four surgeons ten hours to remove most of the fibula bone from his leg, shave it, shape it, and then place it in his face with a bike-chain-like titanium rod to replace the six inches of excised jaw bone where the tumor had been.

He was on a ventilator; he was on a feeding tube. He looked like a shark attack victim. His neck scar looked like a botched decapitation. Blood seeped through the bandages. I was having a terrible time looking at him, but I could not turn away.

Had I not been taking a mindfulness meditation class, I’m certain I would have cracked like a vase, like the 12th-century Korean celadon pot the kids and I have been reading about at night. They snuggled close to me, missing their father, as I read aloud Linda Sue Park’s A Single Shard and we considered that, unlike the characters Wood-ear and Crane-man, we had enough to eat. We had much to be grateful for. I made them list a few things every night. For several nights in a row my daughter had written “CATS.”

“But Daddy had a huge surgery,” she now said, her eyes starting to well up. “Daddy’s face! Daddy’s leg!”

Liberate this article!

This article is available to subscribers only. Subscribe now for immediate access to the magazine plus video teachings, films, e-books, and more.

Subscribe Now

Already a subscriber? Log in.