My oldest son is in sixth grade. He has a classmate that has not been able to attend school this year due to something going terribly wrong in his body. The young boy is being tutored at home with hopes of being able to jump back in at school some day. I was unaware of the situation until I received an e-mail from one of the middle school moms asking families to sign up to bring meals to this boy’s family.
I know the mother of the boy. Our children spent time together over the summer a couple years ago doing various activities and we happen to be put together in a Bible study a few years ago at our church. She is a sweet woman that has poured hours of her time and energy into the school’s activities and committees. She is intelligent and capable of getting a big job done well. For her to accept meals month after month tells me the family is spread very thin.
I learned of the news about a month ago and desperately wanted to call her right away. My heart broke when I heard that something was wrong with her son and she came to my thoughts and prayers often throughout the days to follow. I wondered what he was dealing with physically and how she was doing mentally.
The meal calendar filled up quickly and the soonest available spot was a month later. I wrestled in my mind over whether to call her for the entire month. I know her, but I don’t know her well enough to know if she prefers her privacy, or wants a barrage of well wishers calling and checking on her and her son. I wondered whether I would be bothering her by calling. Would I be just another call she had to deal with? Would I be just another person offering their prayers and sympathy? Would I be invading her privacy by asking her how she is really doing through all of this? Would I seem nosy by asking her what is happening with her precious child?
And so, I waited until it was the day I was to bring a meal to call. I prayed all morning about the call. I prayed for the right words and for His presence. Now I was in the driver’s seat of what to say and what not to say to someone dealing with a difficult time in their lives. And I was swallowed up with anxiety.
Maybe it was because I know what it feels like to have people ask you what’s going on with you physically and wishing you could just disappear and avoid the conversation all together. Maybe it’s because I know what it feels like to have people tell you that they are praying for you with sadness in their tone and a puppy dog look in their eyes. (I don’t like being made to feel like a sad, pathetic case for prayer. I am so eternally grateful for prayer. But no pity prayers, please.) Or maybe it’s because I value my privacy and prefer not to share with everyone I know what I am dealing with as a result of my immune system being uncooperative.
But if it were my child suffering. Would I feel the same way? I have to wonder. Something in my spirit tells me that I would be reaching out to every living soul I know, sharing our situation and asking for prayer. And yet I haven’t done this for myself. I often wrestle with this in my mind as well.
When I made the call, the boy’s mom was very gracious. I was so conscious of every word that came out of my mouth. I didn’t want to belittle one second of what she had been going through. She took the time to answer my questions and shared with me that her son has been dealing with a pseudo tumor on his brain. There is fluid causing migraines, hearing loss, and blurred vision. But there is no tumor. This sweet boy has endured four spinal taps and multiple doctor visits to a long list of specialists. No one has been able to give the family an answer as to why their child is suffering. He is on multiple medications, yet the pain persists. And now he is experiencing back spasms as a result of the spinal taps. I was shocked to learn that he has been taking 120 mg of prednisone every other day for months. They are meeting with an oncologist now that wants to wean him off the steroids within 6-7 weeks to see how his body responds.
There were moments in our conversation that were sprinkled with laughter and talk of subjects that had nothing to do with what she is enduring. But there were also pauses in the conversation when neither one of us knew quite what to say. I was so grateful to have been able to talk with her. I hope that next time it is on my heart to call someone experiencing a difficult season, I just do it.
The other situation that has left me at a loss for words has to do with my own health. I received the following e-mail over a week and a half ago:
“Faith included you in our Sunday School prayers (we teach the 4th grade) and said you were ill. I hope you are ok – I think she heard a concern from your son in her 4th grade class! So sweet….-L”
I have yet to respond. I feel awful. My uncertainty about how to answer has turned into a bad case of procrastination.
This e-mail brought tears to my eyes. A little girl that I don’t even know prayed for me. She thought of me when she went before the Throne of God. I am so humbled. So very humbled. I am so grateful. So touched. Tears are streaming down my cheeks as I type….
I know this mom also. But we are only casual acquaintances. We have shared very brief exchanges at various school activities over the past few years. I know very little about her other than the fact that she also pours her heart and time into the kid’s activities at school–and she knows a lot of people at the school. I’m at a loss because I am struggling with how much I should share. I could keep it short and sweet. But how do you keep it short and sweet without educating people at least a little about your disease so they don’t make assumptions and draw their own conclusion? And does she really care to know the details of my situation? She hardly knows me and I have yet to share with several friends that know me a hundred times better.
Why am I dragging my feet on this one? You’d think this would be a cake walk. But no. I am over analyzing and making this difficult. I guess I’m also afraid that word will get out and I will have to field questions or stares the next time I attend a school activity. I’m realizing through this how much I value my privacy and as WarmSocks put so well, my cloak of invisibility. I know I need to respond so I can put it to rest and get unfinished business off my mind. I also need to let her know how moved I was by her daughter’s sweet heart and her obedience to pray for others. Now if I could just decide on a way to respond.
Praying for my brothers and sisters. May God bless each of you with joy.
“You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” -Psalm 16:11 (NIV)