I’ll be honest, I just came from leading a healing retreat for survivors of abuse and knew I needed to get my article in soon. My mind has been racing with so many ideas and thoughts, so I decided to go back in time and check other posts I had done around Thanksgiving. I found this posting I had done at a very crucial time.
A childhood friend, one I’ve known since the 6th grade, was going through the worst horror any parent could face. Her 11-year-old son passed away from a tragic accident, one that left us all to watch him fade away before our eyes. It took two weeks. In the end my friend chose to honor him in the best way possible by giving life to others via organ donation.
Before I go further, as I was looking for this article I got sidetracked with that retreat. And while on retreat, another friend, one that is just as close to me as the first, maybe even closer as we went through many life struggles together in the past 40 years as all three of us grew up together, went into the hospital.
She has been suffering from lung failure for the past four years. She nearly died three years ago, was on a vent for a month and then the ECMO machine for three months. She miraculously survived. She has had to live on oxygen since, but has made the most of it, with a portable oxygen machine. This is Alana, one that can and will make sure to make the most of any given situation.
Last Thanksgiving her husband, 57 years old, passed away suddenly at home from an aneurysm. I went and stayed with her for a few weeks to help her through this time. A time none of us could have imagined would ever take place given her current circumstance. Why would God do that?
They have one teenage son. And it makes your heart hurt for him.But Alana prevailed. She is tough. She is strong. She is a thriver. She was determined to keep living life for her son and to get healthy as well.
This weekend while on retreat I got the call that Alana went into the hospital. Today, I got the call that she will not get better. It is time to prepare.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6
I am waiting to know how best to show up in this situation. For her. For me. And I am putting myself into work until I hear more. So, I decided to find that article I wrote about our other friend during her most difficult time which happened to be at this very same time of year 10 years ago. And my heart stopped. For this is what I wrote:
My friend takes one second at a time to breathe. One breath is determined by the sliver of a moment…can she inhale? Will she exhale? Will her heart make it to the next beat? Can she will her body to move in time with demands of her daughter?
I watched as those who love and adored her cradled her head in their bosom as their salty tears wet the top of her head and she stared into the abyss, accepting their love, allowing their strength to get her through that moment one breath at a time. I could read her thoughts. “This is not happening.”
To bury a child is to bury a part of your heart.
Now what do we say? What do we do? One day later my parents arrived on my doorstep for Thanksgiving. My parents. My father who loves with his entire being and fumbles it like a scolding hot potato in ungloved hands. Can I really blame him? A man who entered this world with a need to scrap for survival from the onset of his first awareness. LOVE ME. He begged. SEE ME. He screamed in his successes. I’M WORTHY TOO his eyes stared into mine in family gatherings past as I fought an endless fight – one of my own conjuring – because I couldn’t see beyond my own pain. I wanted to blame him and everyone else for the pain I incurred in my life.
My sweet parents whom I adore. How many years have I spent ungrateful? Too many.
I can’t change their experiences or their reactions or their responses. But I can change mine.
If I am to ‘show up’ isn’t that what it takes? Not to expect others to conform to my wills and desires but rather for me to take it one moment, one breath at a time? To make a choice in how I choose for the next moment to go. My visit with my parents has been exceptional. Thanksgiving with family and friends has been life-giving.
But I still wonder what my next move is. Holidays are notoriously worse for survivors of abuse. The memories. The falsetto of ‘good cheer’. The passing of another year and the nagging reminder of failures and anxieties. I’ve received several emails and texts over the past few days from those I work with needing to connect and be encouraged and recharged. My heart has not waned. I want to be like ‘Katniss’ in the Hunger Game series (which I saw the movie today with my family) and pronounce to ALL perpetrators “If we go down burning YOU go down with us!” Because this is a fight I will NOT give up. If God is asking me to just show up then that’s what I’m going to do. In whatever capacity that means.
While my friend struggles to take one breath at a time I will praise God for the ability to take one moment, and if given, the luxury of one day at a time to discern His will and live that moment or day to its completeness.
Wow. And that is what I will do again. I will show up for my friend, Alana, in her last moments on earth. And I will give thanks for the friendship we’ve had and the many memories we’ve created.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” Psalm 23: 4-6