I never want to be so numb that I don’t feel the pain of another’s loss.
It was just another of those statements I wrote as the New Year rolled around a couple of weeks ago. I felt the need to verbalize some of the thoughts that were rolling around in my head.
I’m not so sure now that it was a good idea.
Did I say just another of those statements? It seems that this is anything but just another one.
I feel like a challenge has been issued and accepted.
Almost before I clicked save for the list of thoughts which I wanted not to lose in the noise and confusion of daily life, the news came that a friend’s unborn grandchild was likely to be born without some of the organs necessary to sustain life. The child will almost certainly die. I, along with the Lovely Lady, was grief struck as I contemplated the months of pregnancy, and the dread that the young parents will face each day of those months ahead.
Not numb, but grieving and prayerful.
Within days, the same news came about a different family. The exact same news. The grief grew and the prayerful attitude expanded as well.
I never imagined the number of friends who would experience loss, or would be facing it in the very near future. At least four of them have lost parents, more than one has a parent in hospice–waiting for God, as they say. It is not a time without hope, but the sadness is multiplied as I hear about each one and the circumstances. An old friend and teacher in my town passed away suddenly, another friend’s father decided that this life was too much for him to bear and ended it abruptly. A close friend in my church is facing radiation therapy for cancer this week–Well, you get the picture. That’s not all of them, but it is enough.
The avalanche has buried me.
I’m lying under the cold, icy layers–all of the sudden, remembering that I have problems of my own. I am buried under my own mini-avalanche here at the music store, family members need my attention and prayers, grandchildren are fighting the everyday illnesses of the winter, relationships need tending.
And, the door handle on my pickup truck is broken. Okay, that last one is kind of a non-issue. But, there is this thing they call the straw that breaks the camel’s back. That just might be it.
I’ve got problems of my own. They do make me kind of numb, and I’m not sure that I can keep sympathizing, can keep offering support, can keep helping the less fortunate. I don’t feel all that fortunate myself tonight.
But there is that statement.
I meant what I said. So now, what do I do? What about this numbness that is setting in?
My mind drifts away, as it often does, to a less hurried–a less stressful–time. The tow-headed boy is asleep in his single bed, really just a section of a bunk bed, the same bed he has slept in for as long as he can remember. He is lying on his stomach, his left arm completely under his torso, the hand, actually hanging over the opposite edge of the bed.
The call comes up the stairs from his mother. “Time for breakfast! If you don’t get moving, you’ll get nothing!”
He awakes and, realizing how long it will be until lunch, sits up on the side of the bed. Suddenly, he looks down at his left hand. He can’t feel it at all! He pinches a finger with his right hand. Nothing! The arm hangs, useless.
Terrified, he runs to the stairs and shouts down to his mom. “My arm feels dead! I can’t use my hand at all!”
His mom, with five children, is not one to panic. She comes partway up the stairwell and looks at the dangling arm. Seeing the tell-tale marks of the compression from his arm lying under his body, she shushes his crying and tells him to go get dressed.
“But, I can’t use my arm! What will I do?” This is a new experience for the little tyke and he has no idea why his mother is not more sympathetic.
“Oh. You’ll know when it’s ready to be used again.” His mom smiles, a little comic smirk, which should have given him some idea of what was to come in just moments.
He still wasn’t ready for it when it happened. The stabbing of a thousand pins into his arm and hand was not on his radar screen at all. As the blood rushed back into his once-numb limb, he wished for the lack of feeling which had been present just seconds before. Mercifully, the sensation didn’t last long, but it left a lasting impression on the young boy.
My mind comes back to the present day and once again, I am amused at how it comes and goes at will. I’m less amused at the thought of what will take away the numbness I am feeling. It is pretty simple really. My mother gave me the key, when she explained the cure to that little boy so many years ago.
“All you have to do is get the weight off your arm and start using it again!”
It’s all a little simplistic, isn’t it? But, the more I think about it, the more I am convinced that there is something to the suggestion. You see, when I talk about being sympathetic and caring for others, I often leave out one small detail.
Others care for me as well.
Everyday, they ask me if things are going well. They inquire about my parents, about my sister and her husband, about my business. They are not being busybodies; they actually care and want to encourage me. They do encourage me.
I’m not in this alone! The numbness? I just have to realize that the weight isn’t mine to carry by myself. The weight that is making me numb can be lifted. All I have to do is to get up and allow other people to do what they are called to do.
And, I can keep doing what I am called to do. With them.
Yep. Just like in the movies, we have seen the hero go down under the weight of the avalanche that caught him as he skied down the mountainside. All is quiet and we are sure that he is dead. All is lost.
But, no. There is a hand poking through the snow. Then another. The head pokes through and looks around. Against all hope, the mountain has not won. Our hero is bent, but not broken.
The pins and needles stabbing, the numbness is wearing off now. I think I may have the use of my limbs again back soon.
…Not so numb that I don’t feel the pain…
I think I’ll stay out on the slopes awhile longer. How about it?
Are you up for a run down the hill with me?
“Sympathy is two hearts tugging at one load.”
(Charles Henry Parkhurst ~ American clergyman ~ 1842-1933)
“For the entire law is fulfilled in this one command, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”
(Galatians 5:14 ~ NIV)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2014. All Rights Reserved.
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