Remember when you were a little kid and you would bump your head into the coffee table or skin your knee or something? It would hurt, but you would pretty much be ok if your mom didn't seem too worried. If you hurt yourself and your mom looked at all panicked, well, that was a different story. You probably immediately started crying. When the person who usually tells you that everything is going to be ok doesn't look like everything's ok it can really do a number on you. I mean, not to compare skinned knees with Jesus' crucifixion or anything, but I can't imagine how panicked Jesus' followers must have been when He's getting arrested and tortured and crucified. The One who set others free now a prisoner. That must have been seriously terrifying for them.
Dealing with my dad's dementia was horrible. I hated to see him suffer. I hated what the disease did to him. I hated all of it. What made it worse though, was to see my mom, his wife, suffer along with him. To see someone empathize so vividly and prolifically was both inspiring and heartbreaking.
I thought when my dad died, the anxiety and stress I carried about the situation would die with him. I was wrong. I mean, not totally. I don't worry in the same way like I used to. Every time my phone rings I'm not thinking, "I wonder what has happened with dad this time?" Has he fallen, has he hurt himself? No, those calls don't come anymore. Now I worry in a different way. How does my mom, married to a man for all of her adult life, deal with such a loss? If I'm honest, though, my motivations are more selfish. I don't really worry if she'll be ok. I worry if I'll be ok. Like the kid with the skinned knee and a worried mom.
If mom cries, what in the world am I supposed to do? I'm not really sure at this point. I'll let you know if come up with something. -Chad
They delivered more equipment to my house today...equipment that may be needed if he chokes or can't breathe. Our bedroom looks more like an emergency room or war zone than our bedroom. I attempted to focus as the young man tried to explain the workings of these new added devices to my already overflowing arsenal of helps.
I couldn't help but wonder what this young man was thinking as he methodically went through the steps of these potentially life saving devices. It's not that he was rude in any way but just detached. Of course he was detached, how can you be anything but detached from a situation that does not personally affect you on every level of your life? I didn't resent him...I momentarily wanted to BE him...detached, uninvolved, not moved by the harrowing circumstances that precipitated the need for these devices. I was overwhelmed at the thought of actually having to use these things. I'm not a nurse, I didn't sign up for this life saving course...I want to run, to escape, to have someone come and rescue me!
The reality that a rescuer is not coming is excruciatingly painful and frightening. I HAVE to do this, I can't escape, it's my responsibility, my duty, my call, if you will. I will not give in to the despair that tries to encompass me...I will tackle the issues one at a time.
A new resolve envelops me and I shake off the cobwebs of fatigue and press forward to the next thing that needs to be done. And then quietly and soberly I realize it is not about me but about him; caring for him, giving him a sense of security, letting him know that in his helpless state, I am right by his side.
Our strength is never measured in the calm waters of life but rather in the tumultuous churning of the relentless waves; treading water becomes a temporary lifestyle. The strength to keep our heads above the water is God's gift of provision in the midst of the storm. A #1 song from the late 60's, written by Paul Simon, entitled Bridge Over Troubled Waters, has lyrics that speak comfort to the drowning soul. Simon referred to it as, “a modest gospel hymn." The words, as a reminder:
When you're weary, feeling small
When tears are in your eyes,
I will dry them all
I'm on your side
When times get rough
And friends just can't be found
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down...
Three take aways:
The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion...that is a friend who cares. -Henry Nouwen
People don't know what to say. It's not their fault. The thing is, sometimes what we think is empathy is actually turning a conversation about someone else back around to us. Remember those people in school who would always one up you? You excitedly tell your friend about how you got to go to a Major League baseball game the previous night only to have your excitement diminished by your friend explaining to you that he has season tickets. Maybe your friend wasn't trying to be a jerk, but it still effectively turned the conversation from being about you to being about him...we've all done it.
The Book of Romans in the Bible says to Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. True love is always outward focused. Let's be honest. Sitting in silence with someone when you hear bad news is awkward, really awkward. We all want to fix each other's problems. It's not just a guy thing. Everyone wants to make whatever it is better. Sometimes you can't. Sometimes you have to sit in the awkward and just be present. I can't say it any better than C.S. Lewis who writes concerning the loss of his wife in A Grief Observed:
Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery's shadow or reflection: the fact that you don't merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief...
Maybe those of us walking through grief are too emotional and high maintenance sometimes. Yeah, that's probably true. Please give us grace. We try to give you grace too. Sit with us in silence. I know you mean well, but your 95 year old great aunt who forgets things is not my dad. -Chad Bozarth