Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hope for the Spring

There have been times in my life when I truly wonder where is the mercy. Where has God gone? And why has so much painful suffering been allowed to endure? Enough of those times have been for my own plights . . . but tonight . . . tonight I am left bewildered as to why my brother, sister-in-law, and two nieces have had a lifetime of burdens weighed upon them in the last several months. They have had more than their share of burdens for years now, but the last several months have been particularly difficult.

My seven-year old niece, BryAnna, whom I have written about before was born with Treacher-Collins Syndrome. From her first moments in this world she has been poked and prodded by countless doctors, had innumerable trips down to Riley Hospital, and stubbornly made it through dozens of surgeries . . . at just seven years old. Where is God's mercy and grace through all of this? Well, to be quite frank, it is often times difficult to tell. We all wonder why any child should have to endure such hardships. If there is anything in this world that epitomizes injustice, it is precisely that.

For about the last six months BryAnna has been in the process of getting ears, which she was born without, save for small "buds." They put balloons under her skin where the ears should be and systematically expanded them in order to stretch the skin. Once that was complete they took some cartilage from her rib and fashioned her first ear, attaching it to her left side. While there were some minor complications, it overall went very well and her new ear healed beautifully. They next did the surgery to create her right ear. Everything seemed to be going fine at first, until her stitches came undone and the cartilage became exposed. So they did a repair surgery to encourage the ear to heal. Shortly after, the stitches came undone, and once again the cartilage was exposed. Tomorrow will be BryAnna's fourth repair surgery on this ear. Three times they have tried to repair it. And three times it has refused to heal. Each time they go, they hesitantly hope that this time it'll take. But it is getting nearly impossible to hold onto the now, seemingly frail strings of hope left.

They are tired. They are weary. They are worn thin, like butter scraped onto too much bread, as Bilbo Baggins once put it. Not only do they have the medical worries about BryAnna, but they also have burden after burden piling up on them from all sides. Mary works a high-stress job, for little compensation and with a frail guarentee of job security. Jeremy works a different high-stress job that keeps him out of his home for long hours all throughout the day and evening, with plenty of overnight stays. His compensation is well below what it should be as well. They have very little time together as a family. And Nikole is feeling the hurt from needing her family and needing normality. They all have more than one person or one family should have to bare.

And through all of this . . . enough to make any sane person crazy, they don't complain. They don't give up. And they even manage to find something to laugh about. I cannot fathom the depths that they have waded through, even though I've talked to them plenty about it all. My life is incredibly easy compared to their's, at least in almost every way. And I honestly don't know how they do it. I believe that they are four of the strongest people I've ever known. And they just so happen to be my family, people that I love very deeply.

Each time they have the other shoe fall, I am left with, what feels like, little to say. I don't have any magic words that will make it all better. I want so desperately to say all the right things. But what do you say to someone that continuously has the ground knocked out from under them? It's even gotten to the point where I don't know what to say to God. I've said it all so many times. I've prayed and pleaded for his help for them time and time again. What is there left to say? I know God already knows what is in each of our hearts -- what we all desire and need. I know that technically, he doesn't need us to explicitly state what it is we are asking for. But I almost feel as though, if I can't even pray for them with specific statements, that I must be the laziest person on earth. And they deserve better than that.

When someone that you love is hurting, you hurt with them. And right now, though I cannot ever understand exactly what they are going through, I ache for the pain they are feeling. I wish so very much that I could take it all away and give them a break from what Mary told Nikole is the winter of their souls. Each time I pray for them I ask God to relieve these burdens -- to free their backs from the sadness, the fatigue, and the stress. But tonight, I pray now to God that whatever good he is going to give to me, give to them instead. I have enough good; I can go without for awhile. But they are the ones who need it. And they are the ones who deserve it. I pray to God that he will transfer my blessings onto them.

I believe that God hears every prayer, spoken or unspoken. And I believe that he cares about them all, no matter how small. Did I mention that BryAnna's middle name is Hope? How very fitting isn't it? No matter how dark and wintery it may seem, we must always hold onto Hope. So I am praying right now, for four people that mean the world to me . . . please, God . . . help. Help to bring the Spring.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Stopping to Hold the Roses

Sometimes I forget just how much I take things for granted . . . how quickly my life could be altered forever with a mere whisp of change. I sometimes forget how easily my "normal" could be shifted. All it takes sometimes is a small occurrence -- a mere blurb on the grand scale of time. I am often telling myself how I should be more grateful, and not just in saying it every so often, but showing it, living it, breathing it. So often while I pray I tell God how sorry I am for not appreciating all the things I've been given. How I'm an ungrateful little cretin. And then . . . I do what human nature calls me to do . . . I forget again.

It's not that I mean to be unappreciative. I don't think anyone means to be that way. It's just normal. It's normal to get caught up in our daily to-do's, lists, stress, etc. I think we're just wired that way. It's not an excuse, just a reason. It's arguable how good of a reason it is.

And I'll be honest, sometimes I really am not grateful . . . sometimes I don't feel that there is anything to be grateful about. When I feel upset about the cards I'm dealt, whether it is from my own poor choices, or from powers out of my control, I don't feel as if I have been treated fairly. I feel cheated, shoved around, trampled on, and disrespected. What is there to be thankful for then? Why should I be counting my blessings then? And then I realize that I may not be treated fairly at these times, but aren't I also not treated "fairly" during times that are good? When everything is going well did I do something to cause the positive results? Or are they simply from powers out of my control? There may be times when the sun is shining down upon me, and I didn't't really deserve it.

My cousin lost her husband to cancer two months ago. It was obvious how much they loved each other and how much they each fit into the other, like worn-in comfortable jeans. I know a lot of people that have lost their spouses and significant others. And each time it happens I'm jolted into the reality that I am not immune to the stain of loss. I have been fortunate to not have lost any of my immediate family or my spouse. Most people probably are not so lucky. I know that that day will come and I find myself thinking about it more and more, the older I get. Sometimes I lay in bed feeling a panic sieze my muscles, dread and sadness cover me in cold, heavy, suffocating blankets. I imagine what life would be like losing one of the people that I love most. I become overwhelmed, scared, depressed, and lost. And that's when I have to stop myself from continuing those thoughts.

But most of the time I don't think about it. Most of the time I go about my day, blissfully unaware of the horrific possibilities that exist all around. Most of the time I feel invincible . . . I'm too young; that won't happen to me any time soon. But it can. And while I shouldn't live in that fear, I should acknowledge and respect that.

I've thought about what it would be like to lose Kevin. What would I do without my husband? How would I cope? How could my heart mend from such a loss? How would I get out of bed, wash my face, walk the dog, eat Cream of Wheat, or watch the nightly news without him by my side, or without knowing that he is nearby? I've told him many times that if he goes first I'll be right behind him. There are so many couples that I have heard about that when one dies, the other passes very shortly afterwards. I tell Kevin that I will be like that. I will follow close behind because I don't want to be here without him.

I don't know how I'd react . . . no one ever truly knows until the time comes. Maybe I'd be a lot stronger than I think. Perhaps I would surprise myself.

I do know that I don't want to go any amount of time forgetting how lucky I am to be with him. How lucky I am that I found my kindred spirit -- someone that is truly the same person at the core as me. It would be a shame to forget that. It would be a shame to have not told him that enough.

Kevin is beyond my capabilities to articulate. He makes everything better and he makes me better. He has offered love of the most true and unconditional kind. He has never restrained love for my less than lovely parts and he has not sqaundered the love that I have given him. We both know that, though neither of us believe in the idea that there is only one person meant for an individual, there is certainly no one better out there for either of us than who we already have. We both know that no one else would "get" us better. And we both know even if all of that were false, it wouldn't matter, because we would still choose each other.

How can you replace laughing at all of the same parts of movies or shows -- the parts that no one else seems to notice or think is funny? How can you replace sharing the bond of inner children, feeling like we grew up together even though we only met when we were 20 and 23? How can you replace the struggles we have endured together and the ways we've made each other grow?

If I do lose him first, I don't think I could ever remarry. For me, To be alone with only memories of him is better than being with someone, that is not him. He is my everything and there is no greater love that I could have for him . . . well, not until tomorrow anyway. Thank you Kevin, for being you . . . for loving me.