Over the holidays a close family member fell ill. After almost a week in the hospital the diagnosis is a serious one. I don't know about you but I struggle for the right words in circumstances like these. The immediate inclination is to say things like, you will be ok or, you are in our prayers or, I knew someone who had the same thing and they are fine now. So far I have stuck with - we love you and we are praying for you.
But, I want to say more. I want to say that I was where you are once (which is somewhat true). I want to say the things that I did when my survival was unsure. There were things I did that helped and things I did that were a waste of time and energy. I want to share these. However, because I have been there, I know that there is not a lot I can say that will change the feelings she is having right now so... I have decided to say it to you instead...
You will automatically, as is human nature, go to the worst possible place. That's Ok. I did things like write letters to each of my children. Made sure my will was up to date. Cleaned out my drawers at the office (if someone else was going to have to do my job I didn't want them to think I was a slob). I worried about what would happen to my children, my job, and my other family members.
I did other things that are normal but not as productive like stay up all night thinking about all the things I didn't do that I wanted to and the things I did do that I shouldn't have done. Why did I waste so much time? Why wasn't I nicer to people? Dark thoughts indeed.
I learned that the rule of the universe is that dark cannot exist without light. The surprise to me was that others were not at all concerned about my deficits. They thought of me in bright and positive ways. The love from family and friends that was shown to me was stunning. For some reason I didn't expect it, at least to the degree that it was expressed.
In the end I survived. It took a while to feel normal again, both physically and emotionally. I learned some great lessons like worry is hurtful. Also, that one day I will not survive. In the long run none of us does. But the biggest lesson was how very good people are given the opportunity. How the bright light far out- weighs the darkness. And especially, how very much I am loved. I try to remember that.
Addendum - one of the most helpful and comforting things someone told me when I was ill was, "Remember that when you breathe in you are breathing in the breath of God. He is not only all around you, He is in you." I think of this often.