My brother-in-law, who barely survived a horrific accident some years back, has had a number of health problems that have decided to pile on like those old cartoon images of a football pile-up with Popeye and Bluto.
He has had a degenerating back for many, many years and would never take off the time from work to have it dealt with. Perhaps he feared he'd never be able to work again, or perhaps he was just being stubborn. Who knows. But then, there he was, high above a secondary highway in a bucket, working on a traffic signal light, when a semi driver ignored the orange cones, drove under the bucket and knocked him out of it. Hanging upside down in the safety harness, he was bumped along the length of the trailer. When we got to the hospital, up the Shenandoah Valley, his left eye looked like a nice, ripe red plum. His left side had been wrecked, and especially his hand and wrist. He lost his ability to smell, thus his ability to taste.
Poor judgment meant the settlement was a pittance compared to the eventuality of total disability, and that was that. Being the kind of person he is, he got back to work as soon as he could. Then, one day, reaching inside an electrical box, he was bitten by a brown recluse spider on his dominant wrist.
He never regained his dexterity to the point where he could work, his back was killing him, and he became unemployable. Add to this a whole host of redneck drama regarding his lovelife and you have the recipe for a man on the edge. It didn't help that his true love was a clear distilled spirit, and his second love came in packages of 20.
COPD, a degenerating back, and - whoops - a disease contracted mysteriously... and now, what appears to be a stroke. The family is at that stage where my old boyfriend, The Baloney King, would have said they didn't know whether to shit or go blind.
Another friend's elder brother is in hospice. Yet another friend's older brother has just gone on to his great reward. And here we are with the younger brother, hanging on.
It's causing me to wonder what's in the water!
But as I reflected on all of this sadness that we and our beloved friends have been weathering, I am reminded of the words of St. Julian of Norwich:
All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.
It is at times like these when we need to pull together, be there for each other - even if it's just in a quick email to send a note of encouragement or a joke - and remind each other that we do not walk this path alone. We have to continue to practice mindfulness in terms of asking for the help we need. That's a hard one. Most of us don't ask for help, even when we are desperate. We tend to try to muddle through on our own. There is no trophy for that. We're pack animals for a reason. We're supposed to offer that help, and we're supposed to ask for it. And then we say thank you.
Family is how we, ourselves, define it and create it. Yes, there are the blood relatives, but then there are all those we gather close to us because we care about them. We have to remind ourselves that it's a two way street - they care about us. So we need to keep the lines open and keep each other informed. We can't offer love and encouragement if we don't know what the heck is going on!
No matter the outcome with this latest family mishegaas (Yiddish has the best blanket terms!), I'm glad I reached out. The support has been overwhelming and I've got a lot of IOUs out there. That is perfectly fine by me. When we share our experiences and knowledge, we contribute to the well-being of our circle. And that's why, in the final analysis, we know St. Julian was right.