Dear Parent of a Sick Child {letter #4}

Dear Parent of a Sick Child,

You are lonely, aren’t you?  You have spent many days surrounded by people who care, but there are moments when you feel like the loneliest person on Earth. Although you have had your share of visitors, kind words, gentle sentiments of encouragement through the written word, and comforting touches, you still feel like a small island in this vast ocean of life.

You continue to walk around…

an isolated warrior…

a weary soldier…

a desperate mother…

a lion-hearted father…

in a battle not of your own making.

You hear about and see all moms and dads with their babies enjoying the sun of the summer, traversing through the seasons, and experiencing a life enriched with joy, milestones, and celebrations.  Yet, there you sit.

Waiting.

Waiting hand-in-hand with your child who has barely been awake the past few days.

You visualize her running in the sun of the summer.  You think about the future, and what is to come.  You dream of the milestones, the intricate details of development, and the celebrations you have been able to plan.

You beg for a life beyond all of this.

You yearn for a life farther away from sickness.

You desire never to visit this place again.

You stare at her.  You wonder, “Will she ever wake up again?  Will she ever experience a life outside of these sterile walls, and the beeps of these machines?”  In these moments, your own vision of parenthood, and your dreams of it, seem to evaporate.

You think, “Will I ever wake up to MY child… my child before this illness?  Will I ever see her energy, her enthusiasm for life, and her humor again?  Will this silence ever stop?  Where is our life…our life before all of this?”

Dear Parent of a Sick Child,

Your continual stance in the deep hours of the night mean so much to your sick child.  Your gentle grasp, your words of comfort, and your whispering of hope for life beyond this affliction, carry weight.

All of these things have a gravity of their own.  They are not measured in the physical lineage of this world.  Instead, they are mounted upon that seemingly invisible wave of fortitude that courses through your body.

You have the moxie to show this wayward season in your life that it is just that…a season…a temporary stay…a time that will not define your child, your parenthood, and your character.

With each glimpse of life outside of illness, you are anchoring your child and your own parenting experience to the hope of the future.

Hang on to that anchor.

Throw it onto land.

Proclaim it.

Set your vision on the shore of healing, and the life that is in sight.

Dear Parent of a Sick Child,

You are lonely, aren’t you?  You wonder about life beyond this sickness.  You remember those precious moments before this sadness entered your life.  You cherish with anticipation the visions of your child playing in the wonders of the world, dancing in the rain, experiencing a first crush, crying over a broken heart, going on a first date, graduating from school, and eventually, marrying the one who stole her heart.

You dream of your child launching herself into this world so that it can catch a bit of her radiance.

To be honest, I do not know what you are going through.  My children…my babies…are all seemingly healthy.  I know this can turn on a dime. From my own experience, I have learned that life is fragile.  One day, things seem okay.  The next, you are side-swiped by a diagnosis.

I hope, and pray, and give my own energy to the promise that my children will never experience the life-altering, nearly fatal, and forever-changing illness that I survived as a child.

I do not write from a point of complete understanding of what you are going through.  Instead, I simply write from the vision of what my parents must have felt while watching me fight for life during the eleventh year of my walk on this Earth.  I also write from the words that have come from their own mouths, and the mouths of observers when escaping back to that fateful time in my own life.

I write letters in retrospect.  I write in remembrance of their bravery, their quiet, yet strong presence, and their gentle proclamations that I would beat the hostile intruder that made its way to my life.

Dear Parent of a Sick Child,

I know you feel lonely.  I know you get tired of seeing the blessings of life that are happening around you.  You must get angry.  You must feel a twinge of jealousy.

You cry out to God in your anger, and in your weakness.

Please know that while you are feeling helpless, and maybe even insignificant, in this big world of unknowns, your presence is perhaps the largest and most beautiful sight in your sick child’s eyes.  Your own sense of loneliness is not seen by your child.

Instead, your nearness to the illness, and your child, has helped to underwrite the story of hope, and the melody of compassion that your child hears, and may even dance to in the future.

Continue to be there.  Continue to be that hand that can be held in the darkest of hours, the agonizing moments of pain, and the stillness of the day.

Stay strong, parent of a sick child.  Stay courageous.  Stay hopeful.

Stay.

Although you may feel like the loneliest person on Earth, your presence is a pillar of gladness that helps your child.

Together, you are not alone.

Dear Parent of a Sick Child (letter #3)

Dear Parent of a Sick Child,

It’s been a while, hasn’t it?  It has been too long since you laughed with authencity, thoroughly enjoyed a lunch date without that cloud of despair hanging over you, or even, been able to swallow your meal without effort?  People are telling you that it will be okay, but somewhere in that place of despair, you are wondering if things will be okay.  You know now, Parent of a Sick Child, that things will never be the same.

You look at the other kids in the neighborhood or in passing at the store.  You hear their laughter.  You feel their joy.  You see their smiles, and then, your thoughts are pulled down with the image of your own child fighting for a sense of normalcy beyond illness.

You get angry.  You spit at the curse of illness.  You want to rage at the reasons, and yet, you cannot find one.  Nothing makes sense anymore.  Your child, once vibrant, healthy, and in love with life, is now fighting to stay out of Heaven.

You have pleaded with God.  You have demanded an answer.  Your anger has sprouted wings.  Still…you know that anger breeds despair.  You do not want despair to knock on your door.  Instead, you want clarity.

You lift your child’s name up in prayer.  You ask others to do the same.  You question,

“Why my child? Why?  Please….WHY?”

And then, you return to reality.  You calm down.  You regain that strength that has kept your feet moving.  You meet with the doctors.  You discuss options.  You grab your child’s hand.  You wipe away tears while holding your own in.  You listen to others who agonize for your child.  You hug.  You comfort.  You absorb the pain.

Dear Parent of a Sick Child, has anyone thanked you lately?  Has anyone told you that he or she doesn’t know how you do it?  How do you continue to get up everyday and put on that smile of fortitude?  How do you keep on holding down a household, a job, and other responsibilities?

Maybe, just maybe, there have been times when you do not even know where you gather your strength from.  Perhaps, you wonder when your grit will be no more. You fear caving in to your sorrow.  You know, though, that you will never show the collapse of your armor to anyone else.

You seek the quiet corners of the hospital, the silence of your car, or the closed doors of your home.  In those places of solitude, you let it all out.  You wail.  You wonder.  You wish for a return to life before the sickness.

You want your child to live a life beyond all of this.

Dear Parent of a Sick Child,

Cling on to that spunk that is getting your child through the tough days.  Pray with continual perseverance.  Be present.  Demonstrate determination.  Speak of strength.  Whisper your mighty wishes.  All of this does not, and will not, ever go without notice.

Thank you, Dear Parent of Sick Child, thank you.

Thank you for not giving in, giving up, or walking away.

Thank you for the sleepless nights,

the continual nearness,

the courage to wipe away the tears of others,

the advocacy for what needs to be done,

the non-dented armor you wear every day,

and,

the light of hope you shine each day.

 

 

valley of death, Mercy of Life

The picture above is me during my last week or so in the hospital following my hysterectomy in 1983. I had escaped out of the valley of death . That smile across my face gives no indication of what had just happened but speaks volumes to the God-given resilience of children.

This is the only time I have come close to death. I was in the dying process before the doctors and surgeons decided to perform exploratory surgery as an effort to find out what was happening to me. I learned of this detail about two to three years ago. I knew I was extremely ill but no one ever told me that I was literally dying.

Following this disclosure by the doctor who performed my surgery, I sat there quietly with tears rolling down my face. I was so close to death as a child and never knew it. I grieved at that moment for my parents, family, medical staff, and for myself. Yet, the tears that streamed down my face were not just of sadness, but also of joy over the revealing of His wisdom that flowed through the doctors’ hands and of His mercy that kept me alive.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. – Psalm 23

I was in a Christian youth singing group called “The Sweet Spirits” for the first few years following my hysterectomy. The musical director specifically picked my solo to be a rendition of Psalm 23. My mom and other familiar adults got tearful when I sang this song. How apropos this song was. I had truly just walked through the valley of the shadow of death just a year or so prior.

From time to time, this Psalm flows through my thoughts and I find myself reciting it for days. It is rather morbid to think about walking through the valley of the shadow of death. However, as a Christian, it is comforting to know that the valley of death precedes the glory of His Kingdom.

I have been thinking lately that we are in some way always in the shadow of death. One wrong turn, one missed step, one random act, one diagnosis…the list goes on. I want to start living as though I am in the shadow of death, but I don’t want that to be my focus. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I do not want to take moments for granted. More importantly, I hope to live for His Kingdom and for the promise of eternal life in Christ.

There are many things that have died within me along this journey to Heaven. Old habits, lack of trust, thin faith, and disbelief…all of these have passed away so that I can truly have life in Him. The awesome thing about living a life of faith is that when things get difficult, or when the shadow of death seems to be getting closer, one can always look to the Lord and see His mercies through it all.

Lord, help me to see Your mercy not only when I am in the valley of death, but also when my cup runs over, when I am in front of my enemies, when the pastures are green and the water is still, and when my eyes are eternally fixed on You.