Our lasting hope, our consolation

My dear friend- buried Monday on a beautiful November afternoon. Snow softly falling as if to quell the pain. The hour prior, friends and family crowded into a small country church, four hundred strong to say last goodbyes. To sing and pay tribute to the woman they loved while honoring the God she adored. To bring humble offerings before the One who had held her through it all- knowing that same Dear One stood in God’s very presence even as we mourned. Her beloved family there, lining the rows. Clutching Kleenex in hand, heads bowed in sorrow even as they said final earthly goodbyes to a wife, mother, sister, daughter, aunt and kindred spirit. Not a dry eye in the place.

What if your blessings come through rain drops What if Your healing comes through tears What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

This life- it is never time enough for those of us who love. We always crave for more. More time, more moments, more memories, more laughter, more hugs, more touch. More opportunity. And when time is up and eternity claims the ones we hold the closest, we wonder: where is the good in all of this? How can good come from so much sorrow?

When friends betray us When darkness seems to win We know that pain reminds this heart That this is not, This is not our home It’s not our home

And this life- it is so hard. So much to bear. I talk to another precious woman, listening as she shares her story of a broken marriage, a baby lost and the hope of any other future babies gone with a medical complication not of her own doing. I talk to others, even as I think back over this past week’s events and wonder: how can we carry on? A colleague killed crossing the road, another three-car pile-up, a mother left to carry the burden of her sister’s accident, a father and mother-in-law struggling with the ravages of Parkinson’s. A father taken, a mother. Disease and death surround us at every turn. And that is just my story- my precious friends with their own stories of sadness to share. It is all too much. One doesn’t have to look very far to see the misery that this life brings. Our own dear family- both immediate and extended- a testament to this truth. So much suffering. So much pain. And I have to wonder, how is all the misery of this life able to become a blessing?

We pray for blessings, we pray for peace Comfort for family, protection while we sleep We pray for healing, for prosperity We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering

We pray for the realization of all that we believe would give us joy: an end to cancer, an end to disease. An end to brokenness of any sort. We pray for restoration in marriage, for lengthy lives lived until the grey hairs crown our heads in glory. We pray for an end to all suffering. We pray for inner peace, familial peace, relational peace, world peace. An end to poverty, famine, war and pestilence. We pray for an end to our misery and trouble. We pray.

We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love As if every promise from Your word is not enough

And we wonder: where is God? Where is God in all of this? I come across a beautiful message in my Facebook feed from this same dear friend whom I am mourning the loss, a note written to me six years earlier. Who would have known that this message would come back into my present reality and speak to me- as if they were words given to me in my time of sorrow from God Himself. Words offering comfort and hope.She writes:

Hi Lori, I know things are going to work out for all of you, time is a healer and GOD is all powerful, nothing happens without a reason…the healing can start…. Time will bring everything back to where it should be!! …you are a wonderful person, God is not finished with any of us yet, and he is doing a wonderful work in you, it may be a very DIFFICULT time right now, but look how close you have come to God in all of it!! GOD is using you in many ways, some you are not even aware of, HOW EXCITING!!! Just let go and let GOD, he is carrying you and he will never let you go. I was thinking of that song today, it is my favorite and my prayer when I am down, “Draw me close to you, never let me go” I pray that you feel so close to GOD, I love you guys, and am still praying for you all!! Good night my friend! and GOD BLESS YOU.

And all the while, You hear each spoken need Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

What if the heartache of this life was the pathway to understanding? What if the insight we gained, the perspective we were offered- was the open door? What if the purpose of all this pain and sorrow in life was not for it all to end, but for us to endure so as to find the beauty within the pain? What if beauty could truly come through ashes? Joy through mourning? What if every-day, private miracles were just as necessary as public sensations? What if the little moments of victory were our true pursuit? And what if the moments whereby inner strength was gained were as valuable as those moments we derived the sustaining ability necessary to climb physical mountains?

What if life was less about the mountain-top and more about the climb?

And all the while, You hear each desperate plea And long that we’d have faith to believe

I take a walk the day after, last goodbyes already having been spoken; and the brilliant sunset brings me to tears. It is not that I see my precious friend or even Heaven in this earthly vision so much as I see hope. It makes me long for another time, another place. I think of Heaven and Wendy and others who are there. I think of Jesus and I long for home. Long for an end to the aching of this life. A brand new beginning.

What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy What if trials of this life The rain, the storms, the hardest nights Are your mercies in disguise

And this is our lasting hope, our consolation: eternity. Forever is such a very long time.

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Why is it kids get better right before the doctor comes in?

I might just be the world’s worst hospital advocate for my sickish children. Not to say I always was: just saying that with age and experience also comes both insanity and exhaustion.

And deterioration. Mental breakdown. Brain cell reduction.

Which is to say that I think my brain has (obviously) lost a little of its ability to embellish details (and that goes for many areas of my life, not the least of which would be those areas concerning the issues of sickness and disease) Because..(and seriously, now), after having had four children go through the ropes for what is almost 14 years of medical care, I am starting to lose a bit of my mojo. Or maybe, I am rather starting to get the hang of this “parenting- a sickie-thing” a little bit. And I get it now- the kids are not always as sick as I think they are.

Thank heavens for that.

Which brings me to last night. After having spent the last couple of hours in a series of hospital waiting rooms so as to see a doctor (ANY DOCTOR), I had flashbacks into past visits that I made to other clinics, with one or the other of my four children in tow. And I was reminded yet again: that maybe this new-found laissez-faire attitude toward childhood viruses and the like is actually a bonus. What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.

Ditto for my kids.

There was the time I took Son as a three week old baby to Emerg. It was August, Prince County Exhibition weekend on P.E.I., to be exact. Knowing so much about babies as I did back then, (from all the reading I had done in the What to Expect… books, of course), I knew that babies liked to stay warm and cozy. So, of course- on one of the hottest days of the summer, I had Son dressed up in about fifty layers of clothing, complete with the cutest little hand-made sweater and bonnet set EVER– a set that I knew would just suit this particularly desperate and HOT day in August of 2000 (what did I even know back then).

So, of course, when Son started to get a slight TEMP from all the over-heating, I believed that he might have contacted some deadly virus. Plausible, considering he’d been out of the house like ONCE since birth (to come straight home from the hospital).

When the Doctor looked him over and found no reasonable explanation for his slight temperature, other than OVER-DRESSING the poor child in clothing fit for a winter blizzard, he sent Husband and me merrily on our way. Plucky and confident that Son would indeed thrive and see another day.

Ah, yes. Over the years, I have been known to go a little overboard with the self-diagnosing. I should have been an on-line Doctor. There was the time that I was watching the nursing staff’s every move (which incidentally happened to be Son’s second over night stay in the hospital). And that was also the time when the doctor inquired of ME whether I might be a nurse. How truly flattering. I could only wish. If he only he’d have known how incredibly inept I had been the first time I took Son to see a physician, those words would never have escaped his mouth. The only reason for this error on his part might have been attributed to my slightly improved repertoire of medical vocabulary from those initial infant days when I didn’t have a sweet clue if I was coming or going. As well as my powerful hospital advocate presence (a.k.a nurse wannabe presence)

Which leads me again back to the present. That powerful nursing presence has all but jumped the parenting ship. My daughter has the croup right now, and I couldn’t even remember what that ailment was called when asked for a description tonight. Back in the day, I would have been throwing out medical terminology like you wouldn’t believe. And all I could come up with for the nurse this evening when she was doing the initial assessment was this sad excuse for a description.

“She sounds kind of hollow.” (As if she was some kind of cheap Easter bunny.)

But still. Even with my mental decline, I do know that two hours in a hospital merits some kind of reward. In the form of grape-flavored medicine, or a doctor’s note for a day off school or a free ticket south to relax in paradise. Something. Something must be given in exchange for having risked one’s life sitting in the cess-pool that is a hospital waiting room. Right?

You would think.

But then this happened. She got BETTER. Daughter stopped looking sick and started looking… HEALTHY. Say what? Kids aren’t supposed to miraculously heal just before the doctor comes in to diagnose. They need to be at their sickest. Their most lethargic. THAT’S THE RULE.

Which leads me to ask the following very valid series of questions: Why is it that when one takes their forlorn and sickly child to the hospital with all the signs that spell out CONTAGIOUS and LETHARGIC and AILING, they miraculously get better- even before ever having seen the doctor? And this: after you’ve been there for such a looooong a while, waiting patiently in out-of ‘patience’ to see a doctor. So that by the second hour in, said sickly child has exhausted all the interesting options at his/her disposal, as well as the limited data plan on your mobile phone. And instead of looking sickly anymore, she/he starts to dance some kind of antsy jig in the lobby right beside the silver and blue Christmas tree, albeit a dance accompanied by a rather pale and sickly pallor to his/her normally rosy complexion.

Why is this?
And why is it that one must then wait two hours on a chair that feels as though it were made out of straw and barbed-wire- just to hear the good doctor say “It’s just a virus.” When all you really want to know is that you really are not that big of a doofus to have waited all evening in a room that has TRAUMA written on the door only to realize you are not even leaving with so much as a measly little cough drop?

And the only possible answer for these questions is this: I do it for the love of my child. Because truly there is nothing I’d rather do than spend quality time with my kid. REALLY. Even if that means I am hanging out in the trauma unit trying to think of another brilliant word for ‘croup’.

Let the Good Times Roll…

Thank Goodness, this week is coming to a close.

What.a.time.

Surviving the past seven days has put into perspective any and all consecutive bad days that I might have written about in the past weeks or months.  And I refer to any and all bad days leading up to, but not including, those which occurred this past week.  Because.  It was truly a hair-raising week of GOOD TIMES.  And I do mean it was an f.u.n. week.

Fun.

Just to put a spotlight on one ‘eency’ part of this fun week, let’s talk about being a mother and getting the stomach flu.  Let’s just savour how enjoyable THAT one is.  It is a joy, let me tell you.  A JOY.

The flu hit our home on Sunday evening, fast and furious.  And I don’t know about you, but in our house, as soon as someone starts throwing up, I begin monitoring what I am eating and what it might possibly look like regurgitated in another few hours.  Pause for reflection.  Anyhoo.  Child One was sick.  And sick she stayed through Sunday evening and all day Monday.  Going on false hope and a tad bit too much optimism, I got ready for work Tuesday only to hear the words, “Mom, so-and-so just threw up again,” moments before I walked out the door to work.  As I was dialing the principal with the phone in one hand, I was sopping up someone’s freshly eaten breakfast with the other.

Sub plan number two now needed.

Lovely.

Home we stayed Tuesday.  My little patient and I.  And I will admit.  I do love being home with a sick child.  Darling children.  They are so passive and agreeable and sweet.  Love their hearts.

By Wednesday morning, things were looking up.  I cautiously readied myself for work and ran out the door before anyone could recount any horror stories of vomiting on the living room floor.  And off we all went, kiddos and I, living in the dream world.  Fantasy land.  Carry the stomach flu virus happily around town, each and every place we went. (Sorry folks.)    But to be totally fair, we were truly ignorant to our status.  That status being that we were still contagious.  And that unfortunate fact being unbeknownst to us.  I, for one, thought we were all better.

Dim woman.

Well, if you recall.  On Wednesday evening , ‘Someone’ in our family ran into the camper with the four-wheeler.  Then, the as the evening wore on, an athletic racoon showed up in our shop, eating the cat food.  It was an eventful night.  And I don’t know if all this excitement made my stomach get a bit twirly.   Or what.   Whatever it was, it was just enough for me to wonder whether or not it was ‘me nerves’ or something more viral going through the system.  Of course.   Again.  I should have known.

About 8:30 that evening, I was putting M.A. to bed when I realized, ‘this is not the after-effects of damaging our camper’.  Nor was it the effects of putting the kiddos to bed solo.  I was indeed coming down with it.  The flu.

And rather than recount the times and places and scenes and extreme grossness of it all.  Let me leave you with this thought.  Picture a writhing animal pinned under the back tire of a truck.  That’s just about the way I remember Wednesday night.

So, needless to say, what was getting me through the horror of it all- indeed what I was clinging to like a drowning woman holding onto drift-board for dear life- was the thought: “My children will all be at school tomorrow and I will lie comatose in bed all day whilst they whittle the hours away under the watchful eyes of their teachers/substitutes.”  It was a hopeful, motivating thought that kept me from screaming out to Hubby to take me by ambulance to the nearest Emergency Room for narcotics.  Believe me…I was THIS close to that possibility.

Mixed in with those crazed thoughts and animal-like desires for something STRONGER,  was another significant moment of this most unfortunate event in my horrific week.  The tub baths.  Long ago, when I was pregnant and nauseous with any of our four children, the only thing that brought me temporary relief was soaking in the hospital Jacuzzi tub.  So, Wednesday evening (and all night long, really), in between  stuffing my head inside a garbage can and dragging myself to the bathroom, I somehow found the energy to run a hot bath and throw myself headlong into the water.   Where I lay like an albino alligator waiting for the next best thing.   These hot baths.  They worked like a charm. And I drifted in and out of consciousness until there was more water on the floor than in the tub.  Highly recommend it to anyone who happens to get sick with this measly bug next.

As I lay soaking in the tub, for the second time through that unfortunate night, the thought occurred to me, “I must get out of this tub before the children awake to find their naked mother asleep in the bathtub.”  And as I was just barely wrapping the towel around my shaking white legs- instantly freezing in the night air, I heard the pitter-patter of little feet outside the door.

M.A: “Mommy?”

Me: (Kill.me.now.)…and then…

“Just a minute, just a minute…what is it, M.A.?”

M.A.: “I just threw up.”

 

Epilogue:

7:30 a.m., as I am writing up my substitute plan in a haze of muddled thoughts and achy limbs, Hubbie says to me, “And…another one just threw up.”

Sleep, rest, recovery.  So much for that.

And that, folks, is just a eency, tiny portion of my lovely, F.U.N. week.  Let the good times keep rollin’.

Kindness matters…

The big events in life are fantastic, of course.  And when they happen, I am blown over.  Awestruck.  But it’s the little things that really get me.  Those smallest of events, the little graces.  And when something little happens to change the course of my day for the better, I know there is nothing else to do but offer up gratitude.  To yield true appreciation for what I have received.

Because that one small thing was the game changer.  The difference.

Friday afternoon, I am sitting at a small desk with a stack of papers, a student to my left.  As I have been out most of the week with Oldest home sick, I am truly behind.  Depressingly behind.    Everything’s a mess.  And I hate messes.  Never mind the fact that I was SUPPOSE to have been home even today.  That didn’t happen because my sub never got booked.  And The Call (the “where in the heck are you” call) came from the school about ten minutes before homeroom.

Where was I?  And who was my sub for today?  Good questions, both of them.  I didn’t quite know the answer to either, to be honest.  All I knew was this:  I’d better get my heiny in gear as I had a class to teach, with or without a substitute.

Me still in my flannel pajamas, mopping up water spills on the cupboard.  Hair like a rat nest.

So, the rush began.  Trying to call a sub, while frantically moving around to get ready anyway, I ran my leg into the corner of the hope chest in our bedroom.  Leaving a sharp pain searing through the torn flesh.  No time to stop.  Just.keep.moving.

I rush.  Arriving at school only twenty-five minutes into the day.  My eyes like lead balls.  I have a strong desire to prop them open with my fingers.  But in spite of this all, the children’s voices call out to me.  And I can feel the teacher engine revving.  The hugs, the little arms that envelope me.  The “I love you’s” offering up the encouragement I need to make this all happen.

“I can do this,” I whisper to my inner self.

The day grinds on.  I use my prep to return home to check on the invalid, bring drinks to the bed, pulling up covers.  I scramble to also pull together or put away a few of the things I left hanging in my haste to leave the house.  And then.  I am off again.  Back to the classroom.

Back to the reality of today.

And so it was that I found myself sitting there in the afternoon with that stack of papers.  Feeling the pressures of deadlines and checklists weighing in on me.  And right in the midst of it all, an extra little Boy showed up.  “Could I come in for a break?” says he.  Ah, yes.  I had almost forgotten that this was that time of the day.  Him needing the break, and my room being the “just-right-spot” for that break to happen.

And then,  I’ll admit that I thought it.  “How am I going to get all this done…with another busy little body to add to the mayhem?”

Needless to say.  The noise levels rose, the toys began to take on a life of their own.  My concentration was breaking, as was that of my uninterested little subjects, whom I was testing.  And right about the moment that would have been the breaking point, a little voice asks, that of the Boy:

“Mrs. Gard, where is your broom and dustpan?”  And I’ll admit it.  I turned swiftly, expecting to see an overturned sandbox emptied out on the floor.  But all I saw was a tiny pile of moonsand.  And a Boy who was willing to help sweep it up.  Could I find him the means to be of assistance?

But of course.

Kindness matters.   It can come quite unexpectedly.  Sometimes coming wrapped up in shiny, big packages, done up with bows.  But at other times, it arrives quite unobtrusively.  Through a Boy’s hands and feet.   I like big shows of kindness, but my favorites are really the smallest of gestures.  Because kindness matters, regardless of the proportions or dimensions of the expression of goodwill.  It is the act of doing that makes the difference.

And when kindness comes from a child, directed toward me, the adult.  I don’t know why.  It just blows me away.

Of course it matters that we practice kindness in relation to our fellow humankind.   But Adults, listen to me: it especially matters that we direct kindnesses to those who are still so very small.  Toward those who are still the child.  Who are still the impressionable ones.   And kindness matters when adults are the givers because those first of all impressions are the hardest ones to undo.  And our first impressions of life are of course made in our childhood.

So then.  It really matters how we treat a child. It matters because children never forget.  And neither do we who were once the child ever forget.   We never forget the unkindnesses, but thankfully neither do we ever forget the truly wonderful little graces that make life more bearable.

Kindness always matters.

It matters when one is sitting on the bench at a sporting event, and a child is competing for their personal best.    And the pressure’s on- the score is that close.  It matters, whether or not, the Adult- the coach, is kind.  Whether or not he treats the child with integrity, with value.  It matters that the coach believes the best about the child’s abilities and thus wants to lift the child to even better bests.  Every time she plays.  Because he believes she can.  That she is able.  He has that kind of faith in her abilities.

It matters when one is sitting in a classroom, and their child’s educational records lie naked before them on a student-sized desk, peppered with 1s and 2s, along with (maybe) a few 3s and 4s thrown in for good measure.   It matters, whether or not.  The Adult, the teacher kindly speaks and listens to that parent’s desperate entreaty for understanding.  Whether or not the teacher can see the child through the parent’s eyes, through their unique awareness of the child’s needs and conditions.  It matters that the teacher listens as that parent urgently makes their case, that the teacher honors their role as the primary caregiver of this child.  It matter that the teacher really cares, truly believes in the child.  That she sees through to the person, beyond the behaviours.  To the heart, to the essence of the human being.

And later still.  It matters when one is sitting across from a school administrator, trustee or board director, and a child’s future rests firmly in the hands of significant others.  And there is a lot to lose, a lot at stake.  It matters that the school board personnel act with integrity and honor, always seeing the child as a face, not a number.  Because children are more than just cases, or data or the property of anyone or anybody.

Kindness matters.

And when inevitably.   One is sitting in a hospital room, and a child is lying limp on a bed, temp rising and cheeks flush with fever.   It matters whether or not kindness has been done.  It matters if the Adult, the doctor, kindly speaks and listens to the parent’s pleas for help.  It matters that he listens as the parent speaks their mind, that he hears her with respect and consideration.  And it matters that he talks kindly to the young patient, soothing them with his gentle demeanor.  It matters that he act with the utmost of consideration.  To preserve the dignity and sanctity of life.  It matters.

Because kindness matters.  And although the big things in life are wonderful, it’s the little things that make all the difference.