I’ve fallen behind in posting blog entries lately, as my energies have focused on assisting my mother. She has been battling numerous health issues. It is a rather dark period for us as many of her ailments are chronic, and our questions about the causes of her symptoms go unanswered.
At times like this, it’s hard to know what to do for a loved one. What words should be spoken? What acts of comfort can be offered? I remember so many times when I experienced illness as a child. My saint of a mother spent sleepless nights holding up my head over a bucket or stroking my hair, tenderly whispering that she loved me. When I felt my worst, she was always there to reassure me that this would pass and she would not leave me.
Now it is my turn. And though I am limited in what I can do for her, it seems to be of comfort, to just be near sharing in her periods of quiet distress and prayer. No matter how old we are, we all want our mothers when we are ill. Even our mothers long for their mothers and to be mothered from time to time. It’s hard to be an eternal pillar of strength. We may grow up and grow old, yet the children we once were still live inside us. So when we feel vulnerable, we long for the protection and even guidance we once received from a parent.
How can we help our children when they are ill or feel frightened and vulnerable when their loved ones fall sick? Perhaps it is just time, being still with one another — and facing life’s trials together, that is most helpful.
This week, I listened to an interview with Jane Goodall on the radio. She is soon to release a new book about hope. When asked what gives her hope, she said that human intellect and our ability to change the way we think and approach things give her hope that the world can become a better place. She then explained that we are constantly conditioned to think outward, look at the bigger picture, and place our actions in a broader context. That’s all well and good, but sometimes the big picture can overwhelm us and feel like a tornado coming at us. Instead, Goodall prefers to look at the small picture, the good things that an individual can do, or the small accomplishments we can control. These things surround us, and if we start to focus on one small act at a time before we know it, we begin to see that all the little acts can come together, forming something positive. We can think of our best energies growing out of us, spreading out to the broader world like a “tornado in reverse.”
I pondered her philosophy as a coping strategy for facing illness. Today, when I visited my mother, after listening to her express her sadness and stress. I said, “Hey, I know something good today, Mom.” She raised her eyebrows, “What?” she asked. And I said, “We are still here, and we get to be together this day. We are warm, clean, fed, safe, and stable for the moment. This is a good place to be right now. Let’s not think of lovely yesterdays and uncertain tomorrows. Let’s just focus on the blessing of today and this moment.”
If we practice this every day, maybe we can make a “reverse tornado,” preventing a storm of destructive thoughts and emotions from tearing us apart. Perhaps, by focusing on the small blessings we see around us, they will encircle us, forming an invincible whirlwind force of strength, helping us to face the days ahead.
This week’s book review is A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead and illustrated by Erin E. Stead. It’s the perfect story for young readers who feel ill or know someone going through an illness or challenging time, highlighting the importance of being there for those we love.