The other night after my Billings class, the other instructor and I walked out to our cars, actually vans, rather. There they were, side by side. She recently bought a van for her growing family. I bought my van when I was pregnant with my daughter three years ago. Here was my logic: Once she was born, I would stay home with her so I wouldn’t be obtaining a paycheck anymore. We used my last year’s work money to pay off my van. Why a van when I only had one child? Because I figured I would have many children and I did not want to buy a vehicle every time I had another child. Too expensive. So we planned WAY ahead for the day when we would have lots of children and their car seats filling up the van along with all of the cross country skis, boots, and equipment and dog.
Three years later and “only” one child, my van is rather empty. It never dawned on me that I might not be allowed to have a large family. It is funny because it has nothing really to do with fertility. It has to do with so many circumstances that have happened to prevent more children. First, I breastfed and allowed my daughter to self-wean, which she did at 20 months. The minute she quit nursing, we were pregnant one month later, but that pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. And then my health collapsed completely.
Ever since I returned home from missionary work in Latin America I have suffered from a mysterious illness that 6 years and $100,000+ conventional medicine couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. My guess is that the two pregnancies and breastfeeding pushed my already stressed body over the edge . In any case, God (or pure desperation) led me to a natropathic clinic in town and I am FINALLY being treated. They still haven’t quite figured out what is wrong, but they are trying to make me strong enough so that I can handle a liver biopsy at one of the premier Medical Schools that focus on International Travel Medicine.
I soon realized last August that I would have to give up all activities so that I could place all my energy into healing. At the time I was devastated. I spent years building up a competitive Debate/Drama/Speech team at the local Catholic high school. One of my students had just competed at Nationals. Now I didn’t even have the strength to get off of my couch to serve my 2 year old daughter’s needs. At the time, the only thing I could see was what I did not have.Six months later, while still ill, yet recovering, I am able to see God’s Grace peak through and guide me through the whole experience. First, I had to acknowledge that I needed help and needed to be served. Since my husband was away at the time, my family and friends had to come to serve me and my daughter. For Americans, being served is the ultimate sign of weakness. I took great comfort that even St. Peter had a problem with someone washing his feet. Second, God sent me a wonderfully open-minded compassionate conventional medical doctor( who would call me every other night to check in on me) AND my natropathic doctors who are actually HEALING me, along with my fabulous acupuncturist. Third, and most important, my lack of health has forced me to place my trust in God. I had to surrender all of MY plans and wants and needs over to Him and acknowledge that I am weak.
Illness is inherently lonely. It is the Way of the Cross and while there are Simons of Cyrenes around to help, ultimately it is the emotional loneliness and physical pain that no one but the ill can enter into. Frankly, I was too tired to even “offer it up.” I didn’t have to offer it because I was living it. Ironically it took my illness for me to make time for activities I wanted to do, but never had time for. I am finally able to go to the Stations of the Cross during Lent. I am working with my priest to begin a Lay Community of Dominicans of which I have wanted to be for many many years. I realized I don’t want to be a teacher, but rather an attorney. Illness has been a retreat that I did not know I needed.
Last night as we prayed the Stations of the Cross, I had a difficult time getting through it. Before I used to be an outsider reciting prayers. This time, this was MY experience and those Psalms of Lament were MY Psalms of Lament. Knowing Jesus did not have to suffer but CHOSE to suffer, identifying Himself with Suffering Humanity, makes me all the more grateful for Him.