by Anniel 8/15/15
Come, see real flowers Of this painful world. — Basho • Our family has been discussing much about pain and its purposes lately. No one would deliberately seek out pain for themselves or their children, and yet it comes. The ends of that pain depend on our response to what happens to us.
Our youngest daughter has been plagued by so many illnesses and so much physical pain, and yet she still weeps over the obvious sadness and pain of a boy she knew in second grade. Johnny was a sweet, pale child who didn’t fit in with anyone in the class. My daughter says he wasn’t bullied at all, he was just ignored by everyone. We both wonder if being a “nothing” isn’t worse than being bullied.
One day as the “gifted” students were going out for their extra class, Johnny went to the teacher and asked where the other kids were going, and, after she explained, he asked how he could get to go, too. The teacher told him that he would have to read and be able to do math well, knowing full well that he would never be able to qualify. My daughter says he looked at the teacher with such sadness that she has been haunted by that look for over twenty years. I wonder if he ever made friends or fit in anyplace. He is about 30 years old now and I wonder if he has a job where he’s successful or a wife and family, and has he ever been happy? Was he “slow,” or a “late bloomer” who found wisdom and his own gifts along the way?
Right here I remembered a story called “Cipher in the Snow,” which I had read many years ago. I didn’t know it had been made into a short film but it popped up on U-Tube when I Googled the title. Watching it with tears suited my feelings perfectly.
One thing I am grateful for is that my own child was capable of recognizing such sadness in her schoolmate and still feeling the weight of it all these years later. We would all be better people if we could feel real empathy for the sorrows of others. Not to pity them, but to walk with them for awhile on their journey so they are not lost.
Because of our daughter’s long-term illness we have seen the many ways people deal with their pain. Some withdraw into themselves and grieve silently. Others make dramatic scenes and demands on others. Some people are unable to look at the pain of others and can only focus on their own situation. Some get very angry, and stay that way. Still others try with great difficulty to keep their lives and families as normal as possible. Those who lose a loved child may have a hard job learning to accept and then school themselves to regain joy in living.
It is also sad to report that some parents abandon their sick children, which is very hard for anyone to understand. I watched one young patient, a boy of about seven or eight, who got up every morning and stood in the doorway of his hospital room staring down the hall at the elevator. He wouldn’t talk to anyone or even look at them, slapping them away if they got too close. He stood there hour after hour waiting for his family to come. I do not know their circumstances, but no one ever came to see him. All the nurses and doctors were so distressed over the situation.
Some families who came to Ronald McDonald House to volunteer had been guests there themselves. Many had lost children after heartbreaking illnesses, and others brought their children in time after time, illness after illness, surgery after surgery. If their children survived they brought them back to give hope to others. If they eventually lost their children they still wanted to repay the kindness shown to them and let others know that they can still be grateful for the time they have with their loved ones.
One friend, whose four-year-old child died a few years after finally receiving a heart transplant, told me of the turmoil they had gone through once they were allowed to go home. The child’s life and health were so fragile. One day his son developed a fever (an oft repeated experience) and he was rushing the boy to the hospital just as he had done countless times before. In the ambulance he realized that this time was different. He leaned down and whispered in his son’s ear, “Hang on, please hang on.” His son looked at him sadly, shook his head tiredly and drifted away into death. He just couldn’t do it anymore. His older sister is now going to medical school to become a pediatric heart specialist, and his older brother also wants to be in a medical helping profession. They are one family I admire more than I can say. I remember the father telling me that someone where he worked felt sorry for him because “he no longer had a life.” He answered that he had a wonderful life, it wasn’t the one he planned, but it was still wonderful and he would praise God for the children, all of them, he had been given for however long he had them.
And we still had fun, in spite of everything we could laugh and cry and love, together. People we met through pain have become more than family to us. It is possible to come out the other side as better people. We will always remember the sadness, the pain, and the joy we shared.
In a sense we are all “late bloomers” in this world as we search, not necessarily for “smarts,” but for wisdom.
Wisdom, the real flower of this painful world. • (1296 views)