{We Are All Dying}

The crawl of fear,
of losing, is close.  It licks me,
as if I am a salty wound.  Everyone dies.

Of course.

But lately, I am aware
of Life all around me

healthy or otherwise.

Tiny birds are singing a sonnet, high up in the tree.
Cancer cells are growing inside a dear old friend.
Dementia and life-stealing pain overtake a sweet elderly neighbor.
Depression and anxiety crush the once glowing spirit of my child

Meanwhile I cling
to sanity, to sobriety
and to Faith, there is Peace.

We are all dying,

and yet without the thought of imminent loss,
of the Ultimate loss, death

we haven’t appreciated our life as a gift.

Everyone dies.
Everyone lives.

Won’t you choose to live?

Choose joy in the midst of sorrow and grief?
Choose peace when hope seems dim?
Yes, fear circles around me like a flame, curling and

enveloping me in those early morning hours when

fear wakes me with a vice grip on my heart, blood pulsing.
Aware, that I am alive.

Everyone lives.
Everyone dies.

They are bitter, these days and nights.  Acrid, this

of life. Pungent,

and in this Pain,
there is a Holy Awareness.

Life’s aroma is sweet.

Giving Thanks for What Is

At first light I wake.

My temples pounding and piercing me with pain, I am angry with the fierce illogic of it all.  I try to understand.  I wake resentful.  Am I thirsty?  Did I wake too late my body screaming for caffeine?  Or is this another manifestation of the depression, the black fog that has clouded my days for – I count them – fourteen long days.  And fourteen hostile, dreamless nights.   I wake wondering if I slept at all?  This morning with a headache, I question it.  Headaches hold messages, ciphers of secret coded understanding; though today’s meaning I am too foolish to fathom.  I stumble downstairs, the dog at my heels.  Coffee.  Migraine medication. Water. Toilet. In that order.  I can only focus on these four whispered words.  Each step, my head aches as I blink and blink again.  My right foot’s bones twinge, piercing through the fog.  Again, foot pain.  Why?  It is always worrying me these days, why all the pain?

This thanksgiving day, I want gratitude. 

I am so blessed.  I know this, it is almost appallingly clear – I have nothing to be depressed about.  But my depression is something deeper, old, even ancient pain that has nothing to do with today’s abundance.

I sit and drink in the silence.  The oldest son is awake, the early bird, tap — tap –tapping keys of his fingers on the keyboard.  Otherwise silence.  It sounds so good.   Even as my stomach lurches, and my head continues to pound, I sit in the wonder of silence and ask God to open my ears.

For He is always speaking, if only I could hear Him, see Him, receive Him.

I’ve been reading One Thousand Gifts and I pick it up, again – for what could be better on this day of thanksgiving than a book about learned gratitude?  It hurts to read.  Eyes blurry from sleep, head still piercing I feel a flood of the Tears That Never Come, flood the walls of my heart, full.  Bursting. Pain.  To honor the intent of the book, I’ve begun my own list.  I’ve only cobbled together – I count them — Twelve things this week. I titled it:

A Dare to Name all the Ways that God Loves Me:

  1. Health insurance.
  2. A husband’s love.
  3. A home.
  4. The truth of scriptures.
  5. Daniel gave thanks.
  6. For children’s laughter.
  7. For children’s questions.
  8. For childlike faith.
  9. Imaginations of children.
  10. The sound of LEGOs pieced together, clicks and clinks as the youngest boy digs.
  11. The click of computer keyboard, as ideas fall onto the screen.
  12. The tinkling of guitar chords, rising from the basement.

I add to the list, even through my headache…

  1. Skinny boy legs.
  2. Coffee, warm and soothing.
  3. Enthusiasm of children.

 “For God speaks again and again, though people do not recognize it.”  Job 33:14

Yes, I hear Him speaking.   And the promise I hear from him today:

“See now that I, I am He, and there is no god besides Me;

It is I who put to death and give life.

I have wounded and it is I who heals.”  — Deuteronomy 32:39  NASB

I am tempted to focus on  his words I have wounded, but I “should” remain, even linger with these words — It is I who heals.

My baby girl is hurting!

This is my beautiful daughter Emma. 

She’s upstairs right now–trying to sleep away a possible migraine and sinus infection that she has had for three weeks.  The doctor has just suggested another ten days of antibiotics, after five days of taking one antibiotic and ten days of another stronger one already.

Emma has had chronic sinusitis for at least four years.  She misses up to thirty days of school a year because of it and the very worst part is that she lives with nearly constant pain or pressure in her face and head.

Right now I feel like screaming.  Punching something (I did not punch the doctor as he is only trying to help.)  I am kicking and yelling internally because my baby girl is hurting!

Some would say that living with chronic pain tests your character, and well, I would agree.  I have watched friends who live with chronic pain and it has revealed even more so the incredible strength and beauty of their souls.  But when you are thirteen you don’t even know yet who you are and this seems a cruel test.

It is wrong to allow a child to live with so much pain.

But there is nothing to do.  Unless we go hardball with pain medications for the headaches in the short-term, which will undoubtedly cause her quality of life to suffer with all the side effects.  And so, she is resting quietly trying to make the headache dissipate so that she can return to a mission camp.  She is involved in a camp at our church, of service in the community.  Some forty teens and a dozen adults together for five days and nights.

She called me the first night, in pain.  “A 9.5.”  What she didn’t tell me is that she sat in the first aid office alone, crying the pain was so bad. When I picked her up today to go to the doctor, it had subsided a bit and the Ibuprofen was helping “a little.”

She wants to go back and I am hoping that she can, that she will choose to go despite the pain.

What do I need to learn from this powerless place of watching my baby suffer? 

As I analyze my response, I am suffering because of my daughter’s pain.  I feel many emotions.    Anger at the doctor for years of suffering without relief for Emma.  Weariness of the situation.  Regret and shame wondering if it has been our mistakes (with her diet, exercise and general health) that may have caused this or at the very least contributed to it.  And fear that we will not find out what is causing it and find a solution!

Do you care for someone who is in constant pain? How do you resolve all those conflicting emotions? How do you offer comfort, even relief? Or, are you in constant pain?  What things have others done that bring you comfort and relief?    What have others done that may not have been helpful?

I feel dread, but I am strong

Right?  I’m strong! I’ve been a mother for almost twenty years.

I have dreaded this day for about three months – as long as I have known that the dentists want to extract three teeth from my youngest — My baby.  He’s terrified and so I am calm and reassuring.

“You will feel nothing” I keep saying.  And Tom repeats as well.  Which I am not certain is true because the last time I had teeth pulled I was in high school.   I remember drooling blood as I walked out of the doctor’s office.  That’s about it.

Why do I feel so afraid?  So unprepared?  Because parenting 101 says with everything in your arsenal, you protect your children.  That’s the gut impulse.  That’s what intuition says to do.  And from the beginning, when Emma was born I felt inside me this Mama Lion; powerful enough to hurt someone else if they hurt my child — from first day jitters in kindergarten, to all the testing we’ve done for his learning challenges, hours of extra tutoring,  advocating at school — day after day protecting my baby from the world and getting him what he needs.

I just read that the Mother Lion Defense has actually been used in court where it seeks to justify mother ‘s violent reactions taken to protect her children. Often admitted and successful.  (Good to know.)

I don’t know why I’m thinking in such extremes today, but Jacob has been through so much.  He’s had eight cavities fixed this year. No one prepares you for days like this.

I will bring my weeping, struggling child into the dentist as he begs me to not let them do it.  Worst case scenario I have to carry him in and hold him down.  The pit in my stomach will remain. At that point I have no idea if this is the right thing to do.

I am trusting the experts (first and second opinions given) that he ‘needs’ this.

Jacob is trusting me that I would never let anyone hurt him.

And I feel like crying.

I Fear the Pain of Wanting

Sometimes I want,
Want so hard I fear it will break me in two.
What I want hurts inside, not because
I can’t have it … but,
Because the wanting,
Waiting, anticipating fills me up so full that I know I will burst.
I explode with the knowledge of it.
The pain is liquid fear,
Need rushing through me, pulsing, crushing
Flooding into all that I know to be true.

Sometimes when I know, with certainty,
I just know that I cannot have what I want,
I fear the pain of wanting.
The empty place inside so full of longing.
I fear it because a longing that deep, that clear,
Will only hurt.
Hurt for so long that what I know, what is goodness and truth,
What will be there, with certainty continuously
Begins to take on a quality of something else.
Endless, my longing and my reality go on and on, intertwining.
Sometimes, when I think of what I want,
I hate myself.

Sometimes wanting is enough
To remind me that I am still alive.
But other times, wanting is enough to curl me up,
Curl me up into a tomb-like, cold, scary place
Where I am suffocated by my own

melody harrison hanson, june, 2007