A year ago, I sat in a dark place, one of those deep and narrow crevices that appears all sharp angles and steep cliffs. If you've lived a few years, offered your heart in sacrifice, it's likely you've plunged headlong into one of these spots. You may have languished there, too, despairing and miserable. It's part and parcel of being human.

A year ago, The Hubby almost died. A ruptured esophagus. Septic shock. Emergency surgery. Weeks in the hospital, intubated and unconscious. I stayed with him, sleeping nights on a plastic pullout that was surprisingly comfortable and spending hour after interminable daylight hour reading by his bedside. Time collapsed into itself. Life was rendered simple. Survival, that most essential of tasks, patterned our days, demanding a courage and tenacity we didn't know we had.

Widowed once, I lurched from disbelief to hopelessness to a determined faith that he would get better. He had to. I'd force him. Just watch us. By dint of will, his and mine, we'd stagger out of there. He was a fighter, charging forever forward after a knockdown, and I knew that.

And so began our journey. In and out of emergency rooms. To endless doctors' offices. Through a maze of medical websites, learning and investigating and hoping for a breakthrough. Any time we developed a routine, some small catastrophe would wreak havoc on it. I gave up, at least temporarily, on planning past sunup. Surrendering that illusion of control was humbling, believe me.

But here we are, a year wiser, a year stronger, finding our way through the morass that is a chronic medical condition. The days in which The Hubby feels weak, nauseous or unsettled are fewer and fewer. Hallelujah! But we're always glancing over our shoulders, waiting for the next episode.

Tethered to a feeding tube, working hard to gain weight, he is nevertheless independent, mobile, able to do a lot of what he once enjoyed. He's been boating and fishing. He's traveled cross country. He's finished a handful of house projects. Now he talks about the future in general and food in particular. This year, to break the Yom Kippur fast in mid-September, he hopes to feast on whitefish and lox, on sweet noodle kugel, on the briniest of pickles. Jewish soul food, he calls it, and savors the flavors in his dreams.

The Hubby's illness has nudged me, nudged him, into assessment mode, pondering an inventory of goals I'd like to accomplish, places I'd like to visit, loved ones I want to bring closer. Urgency has settled nearby, influencing what I do, how I think. When making hard choices, I ask myself one question: Would I regret not trying? I don't know the length of time I'll be granted, nor the distance I'll have to travel, but does anybody?

You don't survive near misses without learning something along the way. In the end, it's adversity that illuminates the path and forces you forward. Hardship is a stern instructor in that respect. It teaches that you're neither as fragile as you imagined nor as dominating as you'd hope. A good lesson, that, the kind that provides a strong wind at your back but enough sense to get out of the storm.

(Ana Veciana-Suarez is a family columnist for The Miami Herald. Write to her at The Miami Herald, One Herald Plaza, Miami, FL 33132, or send e-mail to aveciana(at)herald.com.)