Dear Lucy: Recently, my sister was diagnosed with a chronic condition that will cause her to go through a lot of changes that we must all watch.
Dear TL: I am so sorry to hear this. You did not name the condition. But, I think that when we are given the opportunity as friends and family to share in and support another in their physical challenges these become opportunities for profound introspection and spiritual and emotional growth.
While it is necessary to progress through the stages of grief defined long ago by Helen Kubler-Ross (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance), we each progress through these stages at our own speed. It does help to understand each stage and it’s signs. So first, you may want to get a book on this or do a quick Google search on the subject. This will help you to understand some of what everyone is feeling.
While many diagnoses can be scary, it is still important to get a grip and remember the joy and power of being alive in the present moment. In your letter, you have placed yourself and your sister somewhere in the future with all of the doom and gloom that you expect to endure. Certainly, there are plans to be made, doctors to see, changes in lifestyle. But what about NOW? How can you enrich, appreciate and suck as much life as possible out of the NOW. What a wonderful opportunity and wake-up call.
I have a friend who has diabetes and has been going blind for the past few years. While he isn’t all that happy about the condition, he lives his life with conscious intention and purpose. His intention is to keep his business going and to support his family and friends as he always has. He has an incredible sense of humor about his condition and creates ways for others to laugh with him as he meets the challenges it presents. He is fascinated by the marvelous ways his other senses have developed and picked up the slack of his failing vision and is committed to living life out loud!
My grandchildren’s maternal great-grandmother, GG, has severe crippling rheumatoid arthritis and has lost a large portion of her hearing. Her family has endured watching her painful physical changes and deformities and the effects of many experimental drug treatments over the years. She has herself outlived and buried several of her own children. Her daughter, Renee, cooks dinner every Saturday, takes GG to church and has a house full of family members spanning three generations over.
GG is right in the center of happy, celebratory activity. We tease her as she goes in and out of naps, forces us all to talk at a hundred decibels so she can hear us and then she throws in her wry humor every now and then to entertain us. This woman has a relationship with the Gaston Library and has probably read every book they have and devours any good reading material in sight. In a pinch, she still baby-sits a rambunctious seven year old and an 11 year old. She is very much alive and even if she wanted to escape the NOW, her pain nor the love and attention of her family would allow it.
I should add that none of what this family, especially Renee, does requires that they have a lot of money. It is simply a commitment to creating joyful, life-affirming memories for the entire family.
So, what do I suggest? Make a list of the 10 things you would do if you learned today that you only had six weeks to live. Then, act as if it is true and stop postponing life, laughter, joy, giving, loving, learning, growing and all of the opportunities staring you in the eye right now! No matter what happens, commit to staying in the present moment, expressing every bit of life, joy, serving, gratitude and praising God that you can.
As for me, I’m looking forward to dinner at Renee’s on Saturday and all of the cool stuff I can do between now and then!
(For help with the feelings that get in the way of prayer and peace of mind, get Lucy’s new book, “BE NOT ANXIOUS.” Order it directly from her at 901-907-0260 or go to her web site www.heartworks4u.com.)