“Are you still alive?”

by the Ven. Mimsy Jones


One morning in late August, as I finished a delicious breakfast of soft scrambled eggs, crisp bacon, and a warm blueberry muffin served to me in my cramped but clean hospital room in Camden, Maine, I heard someone I assumed was a doctor (it was way too early for family to visit) ask in a strong, cheerful voice, “Are you still alive?”


My God, I thought.  What a question to ask a hospital patient! “Are you still alive?!”


Is dark humor the new approach to patient care? Was this doctor a Woody Allen fan (in which case the answer could have been, no)? Or did the doctor know the patient well enough to know she or he had a sense of humor? I had no way of knowing.


I had no way of knowing much of anything since I had been rushed to the ER the day before, with what turned out to be pneumonia in both lungs. I was immediately admitted to PenBay, a 92-bed hospital in Camden, Maine, where I lay in bed that morning listening to the goings-on outside my room, when I heard the doctor’s astounding question, “Are you still alive?” 


Since I had slept well and eaten a great breakfast to boot, I felt particularly glad to be alive myself that morning and hoped the patient across the hall felt the same way.


I was in PenBay for four days, receiving excellent care from the doctor assigned to me, and from nurses who were smart, professional, and generous with their time and care. The food continued to be good; after that wonderful breakfast I feared lunch and dinner would be disappointing, but not so. My first-floor room looked out on a lovely oak tree and garden. If you had to be in a hospital, it could be much much worse than this.


Even though I do not recommend double pneumonia to anyone under any conditions, my unexpected hospital stay made a deep and, I hope, lasting impression. Being dependent on the kindness, and strength, of others; being away from home, at the mercy of strangers who turned out to be more than merciful; they (especially a wise and witty nurse named Luda, a native of Ukraine who had just returned from a mission to Poland) became my family until my beloved children Margaret and Mark arrived to keep me company, make me comfortable, bring me wonderful local coffee and croissants, and make me laugh.


Margaret stayed until we could fly home together, and as I write this, I have been home exactly five weeks; not quite enough time to fully recover, but almost.


The sweep of these past 5-6 weeks washes over me like a big wave – powerful, humbling, and startling. I have enormous gratitude for everyone who took care of me, on every level. Though my lungs were weak, I was keenly aware that the Spirit was very much alive within me.


Are you still alive?” the doctor asked.  I’ve asked myself that almost every day these past weeks. It’s a good question.   

Are you still alive?

8 thoughts on ““Are you still alive?””

  1. Having recently been in the slightly less luxurious confines of Methodist University, I couldn’t agree with you more about the kindness of both staff and friends who came to visit. You really find out how important community is at times like these. Thanks for your words of wisdom.

  2. I am so happy to see that you are and hear your story. I kept hearing your name on the prayer list and popped you on mine. Its always best to have specifics in my opinion and now I do. I am so very glad to know you have been well taken care of. I look forward to tge next time we meet☺️

  3. Dear Mimsy,

    As you said of Daddy in your beautiful, moving eulogy, you are fully alive!

    So glad to know you are truly on the mend!


  4. It scared me when I heard your name called on the prayer list. Almost knocked a couple of people down getting to the first priest I could get to (Paul) and he told me where you were and assured me that you were doing well (considering you had double pneumonia!) I am so glad that you’ve been home for weeks and are doing probably “as well as could be expected.” Please take good care of yourself. You are not allowed to leave this earth before I do! Love you! p.s. Book won another national award while you were gone.

  5. Eunice Ordman, at 86, suffered a major descending aortic dissection, life expectancy in minutes. Twelve yours later, stabilized, the doctors said several digestive arteries were blocked, no blood to the small intestine, life expectancy in days, do you want to call the children. Her reply: “I’m having too much fun to leave. Figure out overnight what you will do in the morning.” It was then an experimental surgery, the first of its kind in Memphis; she lived, full speed ahead, nearly six years more.
    Hang in there, everyone!

  6. Dear Mimsy,
    I’m so thankful for the great care you received while in Maine, with your very sudden onset of pneumonia. What an interesting Dr. you had and I’m glad to know you are very much “alive” and improving daily. You were so greatly missed at St Clare retreat in September and I’m looking forward to see you again very soon!!
    Sending lots of hugs and love,

  7. Hi, Mimsy – I hadn’t read this until today, right after I ran into you in Walgreens. I’m so glad you’re doing well now – you looked great today. Your message really spoke to me since I just went through a long ordeal in an arm sling after a fall. Thanks for what you said in the message. I wish we could have talked longer today, but since I was depending on “the kindness of a friend” who gave me a ride, I felt I needed to hurry.

    Hope to see you again soon. Love, Cathy

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *