(I take heart from this little heart on my petunias.)
After two months, most of you may have given up on my posting (after all, I DID say “So long”), so I’m not sure how many will read this. And maybe that’s just as well. I’m feeling a bit sober these days (as you can see in my response to my blogging friend ClairZ here.) But I’ve always tried to write true and honest on my blog, so here’s the truth of my life right now, for anyone who might be interested.
We’d appreciate your prayers. To those already praying: Thank you. (And apologies, in advance, to anyone offended by the use of the word “sh*t” in my post. It’s a direct quote from an old friend.):
I should have known what 2010 would be like when it started off (on New Year’s Day!) with Benjamin having an emergency appendectomy. But, being my usual optimistic self, I thought, “Hey…maybe we’re getting our bad luck out of the way early this year!”
I’m hoping that someday, we’ll look back at 2010 and remember the good things. How Ariel won awards for her fiction writing. How Benjamin won Most Outstanding Junior Award in his field of study. How Tom still has a job, despite cutbacks by his employer. How Ariel got engaged. How Benjamin was selected for an internship this summer out of many, many applicants.
But right now, I feel like one of the things I’ll remember most is the oil spill in the Gulf and all those awful images of animals covered in oil, the grief of the people who live there…and the grief of our entire nation. And an overwhelming feeling that some of those in power in our country have lost their moral compass.
On a more personal level, I think I may remember 2010 as The Year of the Middle-of-the-Night Phone Calls. You know, the kind that startle you awake at two in the morning. The kind that make you hesitate before you answer— to clear the fog of sleep from your mind and because you so dread the possibilities. You may remember the post I wrote in April about the middle-of-the-night call from Ariel. Well, it happened again. This time, it was Benjamin.
Long story short: There was a climbing wall. Benjamin fell from it. That’s what the voice on the hospital phone said (calling from West Virginia where Benjamin’s internship is). Fractured vertebra—the doctors seemed to think there’d be surgery involved. No, the voice said. There doesn’t seem to be paralysis. But he’s in a lot of pain.
Nine-hour drive to West Virginia. For Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man, that is. I couldn’t travel because, of all things, I’d injured my own back earlier in the week. Turned out, thank God, that Benjamin wouldn’t need surgery after all. But he’s still in pain. And he’s still in West Virginia. And I’m still in North Carolina, so all I can do is talk to him on the phone and pray and remember the days when I could make things better by rocking him or making him soup or holding his head while he threw up.
Benjamin always loved being rocked. Maybe it was his autism, maybe not…but, no matter what the source of his distress, rocking always made it better. Sometimes I think it soothed me as much as it did him. It certainly did one day last week, when I was a sorry, sorry sight, sitting in my Mama’s rocker sobbing, rocking back and forth, and talking to Mama (who’s been gone from this earth for twenty-five years).
I should mention that Ariel, too, has also been very ill, and until last week, we didn’t know what was wrong. Turns out it was mono combined with several infections. We think that after three Urgent Care visits (and some antibiotics that must be gold-plated for what they cost), she’s going to be okay. But to have both of them suffering at the same time and to feel so powerless to stop it…it’s hard. As a friend of mine used to say: “Girl, you’ve just had too much sh*t and not near enough sugar!”
I’ve talked about my Christian faith before on this blog, so it’s no secret that my faith sustains me and gives me comfort. But faith does not protect you from pain and suffering. We Christians are subject to all the same infirmities of the flesh and spirit as anyone else. Here’s what you would have seen had you been at my house one day last week:
It was a particularly bad day in a particularly bad week. I won’t go into details, but I spent most of that day on the phone talking to Benjamin or Ariel or hospital billing people or insurance people and trying to find a doctor who would even talk to me. The day ended with me pacing and crying and pacing and crying with a half-gallon of Blue Bell Butter Crunch Ice Cream (or what was left of it) in one hand and a spoon in the other. Yes indeed, it was a sad spectacle as I blubbered into the ice cream carton, ice cream dribbling down my chin. When the ice cream was gone, I cried and paced some more, until I finally collapsed in my Mama’s old rocking chair.
That rocker has so many memories for me. No, I wasn’t rocked in it as a baby. In fact, Mama got the rocker when I was a teenager, just before she was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). One of my favorite memories is seeing her in that chair watching the birds outside her bedroom window. When she sat in that chair, she looked almost normal and healthy. We enjoyed that little pretense because we could escape for a while from the world of crutches and wheelchairs and bedpans and Hoyer lifts. That rocking chair is one of my most treasured possessions. So it’s not so surprising that I ended up sitting there last week, sobbing and telling Mama my troubles.
I wish I could tell you that Mama appeared to me bathed in heavenly light, speaking words of comfort. That’s what I really wanted, to tell the truth. Okay, what I really wanted was to have my Mama hold me and rock me and stroke my hair and tell me that it was all going to be okay. I guess maybe a lot of us have felt that before. The yearning for love and comfort is deep—I don’t think it ever goes away, even when we’re grown and our mamas aren’t there anymore.
But what I did feel as I rocked and wept was a settling of my spirit. A peace. And a certain knowing—that God heard me and that He was watching over my boy. When Saint Paul asked God to take away his infirmity, God said, “My grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) Perhaps you’re thinking, “Well, Blue Ridge Blue Collar Girl, if God’s grace is sufficient, why are you such a mess?” Well, like all mortals, Christians are subject to sorrow, to pain, and to great suffering and doubts. And, for sure, one of the greatest sorrows is to see your children suffer. Your pain is proportional to your love. That’s a lot of pain. Sometimes, we do seek solace in ice cream or rocking chairs or our Mamas (even after they’ve passed away). We’re only human. But we can rest in the knowledge that God has a greater purpose in our suffering, even if we can’t see it. We are blessed to have the confidence that God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. And, always, we have the assurance of the sweet and everlasting grace of our Lord. It’s pure truth in a world that’s false. It’s a certainty in uncertain times. And I rest in it.
Even in hard times. Especially in hard times. Even when we’ve had too much sh*t and not near enough sugar.