How Michigan Peaches Saved My Life

How Michigan Peaches Saved My Life

It was March of 1975 and I’d been working in hospitals for 5 years, most recently as a Coronary Care Unit nurse. I’d come to see that hospitals are run for doctors, not patients, and that I would not be able to practice nursing in the way I’d been taught and in the way I wanted because nurses have very little power. I was beginning to see that the kind of medicine I’d studied so hard to learn really didn’t work all that well for a whole lot of problems, that some widely accepted treatments were based on little or no science and were actually harmful, and that a lot of patients were injured and dying because of errors, carelessness and greed on the part of the health care providers and pharmaceutical manufacturers.

I was born and raised in West Michigan, living in Lincoln, Nebraska and I was homesick for hills, trees, lakes and rivers. I would drive an hour to the Missouri River to be around big trees and hills for a little while, but I always had to go ‘home’ to Lincoln where the wind blew constantly and there was no respite from winter cold and summer heat. It was good land for bison, but not for me.

The thing I wanted most to do in my life was to marry a good man, have children and raise them with love and happiness. I was 27 years old and twice divorced, a survivor of gynecological surgery that left my fertility in question and quite sure no one would be interested in settling down with me.

Today I know that I was clinically depressed, but at the time I had no idea that anything could be done about my deep sadness. It just felt like that was the way things were. It felt like absolute truth that my work was futile, my personal life was empty and there was no hope for me to fulfill my deepest dreams. I started to think about ending my life.

I certainly had access to the means. As I considered how I might go about killing myself it occurred to me to see if there was ANYTHING that I might want to experience before I left this realm. I took inventory.

I realized that I had not tasted a fresh Michigan peach in 2 years. In Nebraska we could purchase fresh peaches from California and Colorado, but nothing local. The peaches I could buy were dry and hard, most likely picked too green to properly ripen. They were big and pretty but it was all a front. And I love peaches. Good peaches. Michigan peaches in August.

I decided that I didn’t want to die until I’d tasted a Michigan peach one more time. I decided to hold off on making plans to kill myself until I’d tasted another Michigan peach.

Michigan peaches ripen in August. By the time August rolled around I’d found a new and better job outside of hospitals, made new friends and started dating a pretty cool guy. I was still in Nebraska, but it was tolerable now. I got to Michigan in August and ate peaches until the sweet juice dripped down my chin and onto my shirt. I had them with cream, in ice cream, in shortcake, cobbler and straight. I realized that one summer of Michigan peaches wasn’t going to be enough.

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