My longest blog post EVER! It’s a serious start that gets hilarious. I think you’ll agree. Stick with me? Laughter is great soul food.
This med or that med? Lower meds or higher meds?
A new diagnosis on top of all the others we’ve been living with for years has sent shock waves through this whole house as we try to adjust to a new normal. And this particular diagnosis? This one’s the worst of all for reasons I won’t/can’t go into here and now. It would take a book. The mix of challenges is stronger than my husband and I can bear alone.
Thankfully, we’re not alone. God has been gracious in providing wonderful friends. A few visited our daughter with us in the hospital even though none of them had ever been on a locked psych unit, now called the “behavioral health unit—restricted access”.
Some friends made us meals because I had no time or energy to shop or cook.
Letters, cards, and phone calls have come from family in Arizona, Washington, and Michigan.
Friends near and far away as England have sent prayers and hugs via Facebook. A great friend in Illinois started a prayer chain.
Our dear Indian friends—staying with us when this whole thing happened—they had the women in their ministry on the border of India and Nepal fasting and praying for us.
One friend came and stayed overnight with me when Todd had to go to Florida on business. She did all the laundry. And she came over the weekend to help me weed overgrown perennial beds.
Two other friends came while Todd and I were at the hospital visiting one evening. They cleaned house and even organized my piling up paperwork (now THAT was sacrificial giving!)
Grandpa Jim and Grandma Eileen sent a card with a yellow lab on the front because they knew the pup would make Anna smile. It did.
And best of all? Friends and family who care enough to ask and keep asking how we are, really, and who really listen and let us lean. They don’t mind moving out of their comfort zones into places of strong feelings and mental illness and cognitive disabilities. And it’s nice to be with so many who don’t think that we, the parents, are the cause of our current problems because we don’t do, or didn’t do, this or that.
We are richly blessed and grateful.
But still, my jaw clenches. We’re trying to hold the family fabric together around here as threads have worn thin these past few weeks.
I’ve seen him cry more in the past few weeks than in the past twenty years, this stalwart man of mine.
Me? My tears are done dried up, yet I feel like that dusty Arizona wash I saw last month that hasn’t had a flow from mountain streams swelled with rain in ages. Nothing but dust and dirt and crawling things like scorpions and tarantulas and rattlesnakes and gila monsters. Those washes—those pits can be dangerous places, really.
“Stay out of the pit!” I tell myself. I hear the voice of depression calling.
We’ve been too busy here to completely assimilate all that’s happened in our lives recently and it suddenly all comes rushing through that dry wash of my soul, not to refresh but to drown. And I feel the old familiar pull to let go and let the dark waters of flood have their way with me.
I will not be washed away. I’m grounded in God and family and friends. I’m staked for good in grace.
But still, tonight, I’m exhausted. We have been loved well and more than enough.
But still, tonight, I ache. The flesh is weak.
I drag myself up those stairs by the log railing for the last time of the day. He sits on the living room couch reading his book, a nightly ritual I love to see before greeting him under cover. Him with his growing old face wearing readers that magnify eyes as well as words.
He looks up and smiles as I entice our yellow lab with the ritual delivery of two biscuits before bed so she’ll come up with me to the place where I lock us away from the world and its cares for eight hours. There she goes to her throne, a flannel-sheeted armchair by east window overlooking horse paddock. She curls up and lodges her nose in tight to her haunches, the doggie version of human fetal position.
I crawl into fresh percale sheets. Horizontal at last, I sigh heavily, breathing out the day. And I pull the cotton quilt over my head as a sign, a billboard . . .
I’m done in.
I am glad this day is over. One more down, still breathing thanks despite the challenges because there’s always more thanks to give than trials to bear.
How many more to go, I wonder? How much grace does one God have to give?
I wonder. Because I am still needy now.
I hope to slip into sleep soon but my foot is shaking. I’m agitated.
But I’m still sad and, quite frankly, mad. Our little girl, now grown—all of us—we’re suffering from a bad hand of cards just dealt.
So I tell God I’m sad and mad. And I know, after walking with Him these forty-some years, He takes me as I am in the moment—mad, sad, scared, or glad with all the variations on the themes. We’re tight that way, God and me. I’m not scared of Him or His response to my feelings. But I do ask Him to help me, with my whole aching body and soul hiding under that quilt.
Please God, give me rest and wake me to a new morning of grace—fresh grace—so I can keep going, keep serving, keep living life to the fullest in the midst of all our unknowns, of all our trials and grief.
He hears. He answers. Always.
He always answers in ways that surprise me and thrill me.
I wake to sun shining through our sheers like a spotlight straight on me. I roll over and find my husband still sleeping on his back, posed like a corpse but still warm and breathing, thankfully. Call me morose or thankful—maybe a bit of both—but I wake up every morning thankful he’s still alive—praying for more days, more years with him by my side. Hard times has a way of softening hearts toward one another.
He hears me stir and extends his arm—that arm I’ve come to love and depend on all these twenty-some years. That arm reaching out saying, “Come here.”
And I do.
Over and over, through all the years of all this unexpected mix of joy and sorrow, I do.
For better or worse.
Then, after one minute precisely, maybe, of resting my head on his chest with his arm around me, I turn slightly and see two brown eyes staring straight into mine. And between those two eyes is a long yellow snout with a rather large brownish nose, all wet with big nostrils.
Her chin rests motionless on our mattress and those eyes are all wanting, pleading, moving ever-so-slightly back-and-forth, eyebrows rising and lowering for added expression. She sort of whines softly from the back of her throat, to add emphasis to her wanting and pleading.
Can I come up? PLEEAASSEE?!
How can we resist?
He invites her up.
In a quick bound, Rose joins us, trying ever-so-hard to keep her ever-so-active tongue in its holster like every good dog should do. But it’s SO hard, you know, because she’s SO excited about the “come to bed” invitation. She settles, sort of, by lying on her back, head by our feet with all four of hers up in the air.
I rub her belly.
And then . . .
My husband’s voice breaks the serenity silence . . .
He says to me softly, tenderly . . .
“I love holding your hand. And your nails are lovely.”
HE’S NOT HOLDING MY HAND!
I look over and see my husband holding a PAW! Her right hind PAW, to be exact! And he’s stroking it gently with his thumb.
I break out in full-throated laughter, unconcerned about whether or not I’m waking anyone else in the house whose bedrooms just happen to be right below ours.
And then . . .
I aspirate some of my spit.
I just suck that spit right into my esophagus!
Amazing how violently the body reacts to foreign objects, I think to myself as I try and save my own life while dog and man lay still without apparent concern.
My lungs fill with air beyond what I know is their capacity and I think for a moment they might just pop like an over-filled latex balloon and I’ll drop dead—right there—in our bed—with the DOG—and the HUSBAND—holding her PAW—oblivious to my sudden demise!
So, in order to save myself BY MYSELF, I hurl my torso forward, attempting to fling the bit of spit out my mouth with repetitive diaphragm-contracting coughs.
The dog still just lays there motionless, looking at me like I’m a lunatic or something. And my husband still doesn’t seem concerned about me in the least. He’s still got her right hind paw in his left hand, stroking it gently. I don’t even get a pat on the back!
I could be suffocating on my own bit of spit! Can I not get some help here?
The hilarity of it all keeps me laughing and coughing in a ridiculous cycle, giving me my full morning abdominal workout at the same time! I DO love efficiency!
And then I remember my prayer before I dozed off for the night.
A prayer for mercy.
A prayer for grace.
A prayer for comfort.
And my prayer was answered with laughter deeper than I thought possible—laughter that’s cleansing and releasing and comforting.
Spasms settled, eyes wiped, I lay myself back down in the crook of his arm with his hand still holding that dog’s paw and I think . . .
Life is good.
With all its laughter and tears.
With all its fumbles and fears.
At the end of the day, I can pray from my place of pain and exhaustion, honestly—transparently—to our God who already sees and already knows. But He wants so badly to HEAR from us, honestly, transparently.
And in the morning, I find . . .
I can still laugh. Even about something as silly as spit. Because He’s the Great Comedian—the inventor of laughter—the One who wants to tickle me with delight.
And I am healed, once again, this new day.
And this healing—this day—is enough.
By grace, through faith, with laughter . . .
We live . . .