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Friday
Dec022011

Maybe It Is Enough

I asked a simple question on Facebook.
Does a little bit of care make a difference when the pain is so big?
Within a few minutes there was a string of responses, many with exclamation points, assuring me that it does. Some people told stories from their own lives and how care carried them. I wrote it out of the overwhelm all around me.... disease, joblessness, death, divorce. I was surprised at the strength of the answers. 
 
I can recall small overtures in my own life that still warm me. One was in 1989. I lay in the hospital in Flagstaff, feeling incredibly adrift after an emergency appendectomy. My bishop called me. How on earth did he find the number? I myself did not know the number, or the name of the hospital for that matter, unless it was something obvious like Flagstaff General Hospital. He did not say anything particularly eloquent, just that he was thinking of me and hoped I recovered soon. Click. Let me hasten to mention that this man had fourteen children himself, and no doubt had other things to snag his attention. But he managed to figure out the number and the extension, and dialed it with a rotating dial, which those of you who are over twenty understand took more effort than speaking into Google Search. 
 
How is it possible that two minutes of a person's life can nourish you for twenty two years without being depleted? 
 
Then there was the card I got from the family I lived with when they had their fourth baby.
 
"To the Pied Piper of Bullfrog Lane." I can still see the hurried script of the young father of four children under eight. I had taken the job after a messy withdrawal from college, which was the fall out of my mother's forced entrance into a mental hospital. It was scary visiting her, walking through the perpetually locked doors, suddenly being outnumbered by people who had done enough damage to themselves or others to be sentenced to this. My mother was here. What did that mean about her, or about us? Playing with children was healing for me. Being appreciated for it was added balm. 
 
Another was the nurse when Benjamin was a patient at Cedar Sinai. She watched my mounting anxiety for a week of tests, and noticed that I had forgotten how to shower. I felt strapped to Benjamin's tiny side, and it never crossed my mind to leave it long enough to get wet. She shepherded me to the bathroom, offering a white towel, and said she would stay with my baby. I do not recall her name, but her gesture of compassion will never lose its power. 
 
You are present for some of the most poignant and vulnerable moments in the lives of people you love. You cannot retract the diagnosis, or rebuild the economy. But you can make an indelible difference. 
 
As one man said to his wife, "Thanks for sticking with me through thin."