When Everyday Moments Trigger Memories of Past Trauma
Even minor sensory experiences often transport this columnist to another time
After worship on Sunday, the church I serve as pastor has a fellowship hour, when everyone comes together, enjoys coffee and snacks, and visits with one another. It’s a beautiful time and a great way to start the week. Snacks and goodies are a treat — and then there’s the coffee.
I used to love church coffee. It’s usually strong, a bit bitter, and needs plenty of sweetener and cream. Unfortunately, the only creamer available is often in powder form. On Sunday, someone asked if we had half-and-half, and I told them it was gone and only powdered creamer was available. We shared our distaste for this option, which took me back to days I prefer to keep in the past.
When my son Caeleb was in elementary school, he struggled with complications from hemophilia with an inhibitor. My husband and I took turns spending the night in the hospital with Caeleb, when most of his hospitalizations lasted for weeks. The hospital room became our home away from home.
The powdered creamer transported me to the nutrition room on the sixth floor of the University of New Mexico Children’s Hospital (UNMCH). The room had a refrigerator for parents to use during their stay, and an ice machine, juices, and small cups of ice cream were always available. And the coffee pot was on 24/7.
I’d often be awake in the middle of the night after Caeleb went to sleep. I’d walk the floor in circles and stop by the nutrition room to grab a cup of coffee. I lost count of how many packets of creamer it took to make the small Styrofoam cup of coffee taste decent. Sometimes a pot stayed on for hours, resulting in a burned taste. Nevertheless, I doctored my coffee and returned to pacing the hospital floor.
I’m amazed at how the most minor things in our world can transport us to another time. The smell of pot roast reminds me of my mom’s kitchen. Walking barefoot in cool grass takes me to the front yard of my childhood home. And many ’80s songs take me back to those glorious high school days. Flashing back to other times is sometimes beautiful.
Church coffee takes me back to the sixth floor of UNMCH. I immediately felt the heavy burden weighing me down as I worried about my sweet boy. That bitter coffee reminds me of the other parents who walked in and out of the nutrition room with the same look on their faces. Some of those parents went home without their children.
A smell, a song, a phrase, even the smell of bread baking at Subway can take someone back to the worst time in their life. I’m aware of these moments and work through them in the best way possible. Sometimes my heart races while I try to shake off memories of bad times. But lately, I’ve been able to acknowledge those smells and sounds and give thanks.
I’m not giving thanks for the bad moments. Instead, my gratitude overflows because, in the moment of flashing back, my heart is overwhelmed with thanks that my son is no longer in the same place.
Note: Hemophilia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Hemophilia News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to hemophilia.