There’s a reason I do what I do, and am what I am. Through nearly 33 years of marriage my wife and I have been through a lot – more than I could ever share with you. One of our big challenges came from the year 2014. In the space of nine months, Mary had three spine surgeries. I went from not only having the role of husband, but that of caregiver, as well. It took months of daily physical and occupational therapy, not to mention the endless doctor visits, for my wife to learn to walk again and do simple tasks that most of us take for granted.
The good news is that Mary is upright and walking. She can mostly get around and do things on her own. The bad news is that she lives with chronic pain every single day. Some days aren’t too bad, and Mary can accomplish a fair amount of what she wants to do. But there are other days when she can’t get out of bed; days when taking a shower and getting dressed is all she can get done; and, days when the pain becomes so problematic that discouragement and depression sandwiches her like two evil slices of bread.
Yet, even on the worst of days Mary is an amazing wife. She is tough and resilient, as well as compassionate and caring. I’ve learned most of what I know about caring ministry from her. I don’t talk a lot about her on this website. Yet, Mary is behind each word I craft and every phrase I smith. She is always on my mind and in my heart. Mary has taught me how to care through the example of her own life, and given me the opportunity to show how much I care for her.
Mary maintains a Facebook page about her journey with pain called “Joy in the Mourning.” Because she lives with chronic pain, her posts come neither regularly nor easily. It is a labor of love, some days being a whole lot more labor than love. Recently, Mary was able to return to a job. By no means able to hold a full-time job, she has found meaningful work doing what she does best: caring for people as a companion to folks with dementia.
The following is her most recent post. I hope you are encouraged in your own journey of faith. Whether you face chronic physical or emotional pain, care for someone who does, or just want to live-out your faith in ways that make sense, I trust you find some joy in your life through whatever circumstances you may face today:
Friends, I’ve got great news! I have completed the first 90 days at my job! It’s been a long time since I have been able to say that. I’m sore today from working. Usually, I say that I hurt today due to getting dressed or showering, walking the dog, or getting out of bed. It has taken over 3 years, post-surgeries, to be able commit to a regular schedule of working.
In my healing journey, I had to commit /submit myself to physical therapy, yoga stretching, strength training, biofeedback, acupuncture, massage therapy, weekly counseling with a pain psychologist, daily prayer, journaling, meditation, and even sought out healing through the laying on of hands from godly healers, as well as nutrition, essential oils and music therapy. All very helpful, but…
I have to admit a foundational piece to getting to where I am today: I mourned.
I gave myself permission to mourn my loss. I admitted my anger… no, I wrestled with my anger is a better phrase; and, I embraced my sadness, and let myself feel the loneliness of disability. I asked the hard questions: WHY!? How long? I cried… a lot. In my darkest times a little spark of light invaded my space. A gentle and soft comfort hugged my heart. A warm sprinkle of hope powdered my soul. I began to discover a new kind of joy.
No matter what your specific suffering is, I believe that mourning your loss, and allowing yourself to walk through the valley of the shadow will lead you to a path where you can experience comfort, hope and even joy. For me, this part of the journey has been life-giving. Christ understands suffering. He will walk with us through this experience.
I never told you what I’m doing now. I am a companion for those who suffer – mostly Alzheimer’s patients, and those who are suffering life-altering afflictions. I’m working 2-6 hours each day, sharing some of the comfort I received, and being real and open while allowing my pain to make a difference. May you be blessed, my friends.