several friends have recently had to say ‘goodbye’ to their companions — their dogs. from old age to illness the stories are personal and heart-felt. i share this blog-entry as a tribute to all of the people i know (and do not know) who are feeling the absence of such warm and unconditional love.
I know this child. I was she. With few role models to begin the journey, I faced my own mirror and saw a ‘dancer’.
There was no textbook for how family could raise a disabled child with confidence and opportunity. In the late 50s and early 60s few families had the support of established organizations nor were encouraged to meet with one another to share their struggles and successes.
Blessed as a child I knew few limits. My memory takes me to friendships and fun. My memory takes me to travel, family, school and all things that nurture the imagination of a child. The limits that were obvious became challenges (puzzles) to solve. The world was before me and all I wanted to do was move through it with the spirit’s music and rhythm. There were plenty of times when I needed that music to cushion and calm. Every child has to face the hard edges of growing up. These edges were particularly unique for me (as they are for any child growing up with a disability) – I entered the world of medicine, doctors and surgery at a very young age. Recovery from multiple surgeries was hard but to go without I could not have moved forward. So, there was never a question – recovery it was. With encouragement and love from parents and friends, I made my way through those young years and into an adult life filled with opportunity.
“Dancing” takes on many forms and the steps change throughout a lifetime. Ordained an Episcopal priest, I have the honor to lead the steps in faith’s dance, through the grace offered by God’s spirit. Now retired, I am testing the next steps in this dance. Again, the textbooks are few for what the road ahead should look like, which is a good thing because my style would most likely challenge any expectation. As many readers know, I have recently moved. Along with settling in a new home, I am meeting new doctors and other practitioners on a regular basis. To my surprise, there have been several moments when I have been thrown back to hard edges of my childhood. While recently meeting with a new physician, I made mention of how grateful I was to be so ‘healthy’. Her response – ‘yes, you have few immediate health problems which is good. You are in pretty good shape to be so ‘broken’. ‘Broken‘ – a word I have never thought of when describing myself. I may be able to understand her intent but the word used was hurtful.
That same confidence that carried me through childhood, the confidence that knew few limits, is still ever-present – ready to redefine and move ahead with the dance that is before me. I take these new steps grateful that I know the difference between being healthy and being whole. Like the image of this tiny dancer — it is not about seeing the broken – if that is all we see than we miss the beauty before us. She has all she needs.
It has been more than a month since Lilly moved to her new home. The ache within does not grab with the strength of the early days. I am told great stories. She is running with new four-legged friends. She is sharing her abundant love and care with her companions (the two legged type). Last week I received wonderful pictures of a recent camping trip where Lils actually got her feet wet! She is happy and I am grateful.
Time – the one thing in life that nudges us along when we have little energy to move on our own. Forward – the only way to go without creating unduly and unhealthy resistance. Breath – the one gift that sustains and fills us with the mystery of our Great Creator.
I am thankful for all of these ‘gifts’. Gifts that continue to support me as I live into one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make. In a way unforeseen, Lilly and I did what we have always done. We took care of one another. As she delights in her newfound friends and freedom, I am happy and able to go greet each day with my own re-discovered freedom. I can make plans and not be concerned. Lilly is not stressing over my needs ( her responsibility for so long). And I am free to move about with complete focus on all the fun and demanding details of living into a new home and make new friends.
We took care of one another. How I love the irony of life!
We have often talked about that one special thing we will get ‘around to’. This is a wonderful reflection on the importance of ‘now’. For those who haven’t met I introduce you to Millie. She has a beautiful way to inspire and encourage – enjoy!!