What is Life as Normal, Anyway?

3rocks

As I write this, we are a matter of hours away from one week since my Father In Law passed.  When we got the news that his cancer was back, that there was nothing they could do for it… it was January 29th.  The surgeon said we would have a few months.  The oncologist, a few weeks.  Hospice, even less than that.  I knew that the best thing to do for my husband, was to put aside as much as I could to be there for him.  I was going to take a break from school work, cancel all of my obligations that I could, and set aside as much as possible.  My husband took some time off of work in that first week, so that he could spend time with him.

It was decided that he would spend out his remaining days at home, and we were there when the hospice transport picked him up from the hospital and followed to his house.  At that point, we believed that we were already on limited time.  We couldn’t have imagined that six weeks would go by.  We are thankful for the time we were able to spend with him.  As a wife the greatest gift I could have given my husband is the support he needed at that time.

As we approach the one week mark, it is time for us to return to life as normal.  My husband has to go back to work as his family leave time is over, I need to plug back in to my classes…  life goes on, right?  I know that my Father in Law would not want us wallowing in sadness and stop our lives in light of his passing.  However, after taking so much time off to cleave together as a family… what is “life as normal” anyway?  And, how much do we want to go back to it?

It’s been nice spending time together as a family, prioritizing our time with each other over all of the distractions that pull us apart.   It was nice not having an overwhelmed schedule, trying to fit too much stuff into too little time.

They say that death can bring out the worst in families, but I think it can also bring out the best.  It becomes an opportunity to die to our self and put others as priority.  When it becomes less about what I want to do, and more about what you need for me to do.  But this shouldn’t be something that is brought about by death, or illness.  Yes these are specific occasions where we SHOULD drop anything and do whatever we can to make those last memories with someone we love.  However, we shouldn’t wait for someone to get sick or become terminal, or pass away before we recognize what our priorities in life are.

Pick up the phone and call the people you love, the ones that are your family or the ones you consider family.  Don’t let too much time pass before connecting with those who are important to you.  Visit when you can, and don’t make a million excuses for why you can’t.  Whatever obstacles may get in your way, are just that… obstacles.  Obstacles don’t have to stop you, they just may delay you.  Or, they may require creative thinking or humbling yourself to ask for help.

The road goes in both directions.  Phones make and take calls.  Relationships are not one sided, but are built when both parties make the effort.

I’m not sure what “life as normal” will look like for us, but I am certain it will not look the same.

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Just Show Up!

justshowup

My grandmother had a huge influence on me, and my personality.  She was a registered nurse, who began her nursing career in the Army.  She had a very no nonsense way about her, when it came to things like being ill or hurt.  I could express it in a single sentence:  Suck it up, you do what you have to do.  There was no wallowing or lamenting with my grandmother.  Stitches needed, stitches given.  Broken bones get casts and physical therapy.  If you need surgery, no need to be scared, just get it done and over with. 

Because of her influence, I must admit that I don’t handle these things like I should.  When someone tells me they are sick or seriously injured, I lack compassion.  It isn’t that I have never been hurt or faced crisis myself, but I was trained to face it headstrong.  You do, what you have to do.  Period.  No sense in crying or getting depressed.  My shoulders have not held many faces, nor caught many tears.  I haven’t grasped hands, silently praying, or even giving reassuring words.

This response is not even toward others, but to myself.  In 2003 I was pregnant with our second when precancerous cells were found in my cervix and my uterus.  It brought with it a lot of concerns for my pregnancy.  I remember keeping so very much of it to myself, because I didn’t want to worry people.  I didn’t want people fawning over me with concern.  It was something that needed to be dealt with, simple as that.  I recall staring out our window one day, teary eyed, when my husband tried to reassure me that the baby would be fine.  I took a sigh, and responded that her conception may have been a gift to save my life… and that may have been her only purpose.  It wasn’t cold and callous, I loved her so much already.  It was just part of how I was raised to view things. 

There was a difference between this and other health scenarios, in that I was a believer now.  My prayers to God were that any treatments I would need could be held off until she was born.  I didn’t want my illness to affect her chances.  In the many years since, I am often haunted by concerns that those precancerous cells come back.  I rarely find myself struck with terror until the tests come back clear. But I do pray to God that if I must deal with this again, that it can wait until my children are adults.   I know that sounds strange, but in truth I personally don’t fear death.  I only have concern for those whom I would leave behind.

So, once again, this doesn’t exactly make me the best person to lean on when you find yourself in facing crisis head on.  It isn’t that I don’t care, or that I am ok with bad things happening to amazing people.  Far from.  I just don’t know how to process it like I should, I don’t know how to be the friend you need in that moment.  I have gotten the news that a friend’s child has been diagnosed with a terminal illness.  I have received the funeral information for a person who unexpectedly dies leaving a family in mourning.  My phone has rang in the wee hours because someone is in the hospital, or missing.

I’ve realized that in these moments, I thought I was not the right person for compassion.  And, that is probably still right.  However, I have also begun to learn that I am the right person for action.  I will get in my car and drive the streets looking for your child.  I will do the talking when you can’t, I will pick out the dress and the shoes, I will fill out forms, I can make decisions.  I will call the family members for you, or contact the church to make arrangements. Perhaps there is a blessing to being a person who doesn’t lean into emotion and instead steps up to the tasks ahead.

I believe, however, that there is a time when both of those attributes can come together and work beautifully.  When a friend was facing cancer, she was worried and anxious.  She also had moved and I couldn’t be there for her to help.  My only way to “act” was to have compassion and empathy for her situation.  This was something really hard for me to do, but I knew her battle was going to be harder.  I resolved that I was going to send her a card every single day until we got through the testing and results process.  I honestly have no idea how many cards I sent her… but I did it.  Every single day.  I went to the scripture, found verses regarding health and healing, used my artistic talents to create individual cards, and inscribed them with the selected verses.

To this day, she still has at least some of the cards.  Occasionally I get a text or note from her where she mentions them.  When I realized how that little step on my part meant so much to her, I began to see how I could take action and bring it to compassion.  In the years since, I have done similar things for others when they need encouragement, compassion, empathy, or even just a thinking of you.  I’m learning more and more that being present is enough.

This winter, I had the opportunity to read the book “Just Show Up” which was co-authored by friends Kara Tippetts and Jill  Lynn Buteyn.  This was a unique opportunity with Family Christian to do a review, because the opportunity wasn’t limited to a select number of bloggers.  And, I couldn’t be happier that so many people were given the opportunity to read this book and share it.  This book is simply put, super important.

You may be the person who has a lot of compassion, no one cries alone with you.  You may be the person who doesn’t know what to do in those situations.  Or, you may be the person who is going through a crisis and you hear the offers of help and support… but you don’t know what to do with it all.   In other words, if you are a person who cares about others in your life… READ THIS BOOK!

Just Show Up, brings us into the reality of walking through life with your friends when they are in the midst of suffering.  Author Kara Tippetts was actively battling cancer and Co-Author Jill Lynn Buteyn was the friend walking alongside her.  In this book you get to see both sides of the coin, from the perspective of the person who is in crisis and the friends who are trying to be there, supporting and encouraging.  This dual perspective helps us all see what this journey looks like for those involved, they share their struggles, they share what they learned in the process. 

We learn that there is a time to be a silent presence, how to give and receive, and how to be that friend who just shows up … even when she doesn’t know what to do, or say.  In fact this book, in my opinion, is one that goes beyond enduring suffering as friends.  It opens our eyes to what real,  godly, loving, and committed friendship looks like.  In the good, and the bad.  When life is going great, when life is changing, and when life takes an unexpected turn.

One of the blessings I received from the book is the “Comfort In, Dump Out” circle, where it tangibly helps us identify who we can speak to during the times of crisis in a helpful way.  For example, it is not my place to dump on my friend’s spouse how her illness is affecting me.   I need to be a comfort to him, and he can dump out on me.  BUT, I can speak to my personal friends.  They are the people whom I can dump out on, and will comfort me.

This is a book that is going to create radical, fierce friendships… the kinds we long for and God wants for us.  Let’s do life together, even when it is hard.  When you don’t know how, go to those who are willing to share.  Put this book on your 2016 must read list, keep it in mind for gifts.  When you friend confides her crisis, this is a great book.  When another friend is expressing her sadness because someone in her life is going through something difficult & she doesn’t know what to do… gift or at least recommend this book.

Just Show Up is a book that is insightful to what really happens in relationships during times of tragedy, difficulty, crisis, and suffering.  I would also recommend this book to Women’s Ministry Leaders who may be counseling women through tough seasons or tragic circumstances.

 

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