How long do you think people will continue to read something so self-serving? It’s not like I’m the only person who has ever known pain. Certainly not the only person in pain. Brad, my parents, some of my close friends, they could write their own blog about Anna’s life and death. But they don’t, and I don’t know why. Unfortunately for the masses, it seems I’m hardwired to spread my misery around for everyone to witness. A default survival mechanism that isn’t necessarily my best trait. Or maybe it is. Maybe unbridled expression is rare enough that it’s valued and refreshing. Or not. How much is too much information? For as many people that have said it is helpful, how many more wish I’d just shut up already or are mortified that I expose myself so? On the other hand, if we had Anna at home with us, I wouldn’t shut up about that either. I’d be spreading my glee around and suffocating people with my daughter. What do people relate to more? The delight or the pain? Which gets tiring faster?
Today I returned to the hospital for a couple hours to try that working thing again. (Wasn’t as foggy today, thankfully.) But I had two encounters that showcased the multitude of ways humans suffer. My patient was a lovely woman in her early 70s who had a stroke a week ago that has rendered her right arm paralyzed (probably her leg too, I didn’t ask). She lived independently and now faces a nursing home, unless one of her adult children is willing to take her in. She shared that she “had a hard time with [her] husband too”, who died 20 years ago of cancer. She began to cry as she talked about it. Twenty years later and it still hurts. How much different would this experience be for her if her husband was still alive to be with her through therapy and beyond? This wonderful woman faces losing her entire life as she knows it. Her body doesn’t work, she’s now dependent upon others for virtually everything, she must leave her home. She can’t go outside just to breathe the fresh air without the mercy of someone willing to take her there. She can’t go to the fridge or the store when she has an urge for something in particular. Someone will now always be watching her every move, witness her every decision. Maybe noteverything, but close. How does one reconcile that, knowing it doesn’t stand to change for the rest of your life?
The other encounter was with a co-worker only 3 years older than I. A married mother of 2 teens, she discovered she had breast cancer late last year and has undergone pretty much all the most awful stuff one thinks of with breast cancer. She’s heading into her 4th round of chemo which ends in July. Then a few months of radiation, then reconstructive surgery at the end of the year. Add to this that a side effect of the treatment is heart damage, which she’s having assessed next week. Come on. She will never be the same. Nor will her any member of her family. Her husband...terrified, struggling to be strong for his wife and kids, the primary person to keep things going at home, and still having to work.
Brad, me, this patient, this woman and her family, we’re a mere handful of millions of suffering people. Why?! How is it possible for people to NOT entertain the possibility that this is, in fact, hell? There is evidence everywhere. Some might argue that we are put here to find God. Find Him, depend on Him, praise Him, in the midst of suffering. And if we do, we get to be happy and fulfilled for eternity. If not, we get to come back here and try, try again. Maybe that’s how Eastern and Western religions are both right. Reincarnation and sentenced to hell...one in the same.
So what to make of the moments that are joyful, then? A glimpse into God? Mercy from the struggle? Spiritual food to potentially sustain you when the journey is rocky? There will be alot of arguments that God is everywhere and in everything. Maybe so. But a beautiful sunset does not heal my heart. The rush of the creek and the miracles of a budding spring are not salve to the wounds of my soul. It all feels more like trickery. Place a good piece of cheese in the trap and the mouse will keep coming.
Here’s the thing that struck me most in talking to my co-worker today. She is fighting so hard to keep her life. I would quit mine and call it a day in an instant were it not for those I love. Why, when there are two parties with opposing but complementary interests, does God just not say, “Okay, that seems like a win-win. Make it so.” “Life Isn’t Fair” may just be one of the biggest understatements in history.