I’m sure you’ve heard it said that life is a journey. None of us asked to be here. None of us had the choice of whether or not we would be born. I’m not speaking theologically here, although there is much that could be said in that realm. I’m talking pure fact that everyone can agree on (I would think)–you are not here because one day you decided you wanted to be conceived. From the moment of conception, change becomes a constant in our lives. A baby goes from being surrounded by a sac of warm water all while being fed by a chord to feeling the chill of the world and needing to suck to get food all in a matter of hours. From the time that baby makes his or her grand entrance into the world, change is a given.
Facebook has this feature that each day it shows me my memories from the last several years. These memories are my statuses, pictures, and posts I was tagged in by someone else. Sometimes it is fun to read what was going on five or more years ago. This month, most of that has included memories of my kids’ high school graduation parties. It’s also fun to look back at pictures and see how much change has taken place. One of the areas where that is playing out the most is with my grandson. He is now fifteen months old. A year ago, he was just a tiny peanut who couldn’t hold his head up on his own and who wanted to be held every moment he was awake–and asleep! When he would visit, or if I was watching him so his mommy and daddy could have a break, I knew I would be sitting in the chair with him or walking with him and bouncing him in my arms in order to get him to sleep.My Facebook memories show a tiny little boy, eyes shut tightly, as he sleeps in my arms. Now that tiny little baby is on the move. He stands up by himself and walks–and is very proud of himself for doing so! He claps to music. He plays pat-a-cake. He laughs and giggles and eats real food. And he isn’t interested in being snuggled very much. There is a whole world for him to explore and he is busy doing just that every moment he is awake! I see him a lot, yet it seems every time I do, he changes some.
A little over three years ago, I was given news that would change my life. Since that day, my journey, one that I did not willingly choose but was dealt regardless, has been one of unpredictability. There has been some mountaintop highs in those years, but those mountaintops have come with even more low valleys as well. The last six months, especially, have been months of deep darkness for me. I am not ashamed of this. I don’t try to hide it, which you know if you’ve read much of what I have written. But, I also don’t share the deepest darkness. Some things most people would just not understand unless they’ve been in such a dark place. And the last thing I need is someone telling me that I shouldn’t feel this way because I have so many good things in my life. Like I don’t already know that. As I was thinking about these last few very difficult months, I began to think about the people around me. A journey like this cannot be walked alone. The darkness quickly overtakes and life is cut short. However, this kind of journey is not for the faint of heart. And that is what struck me. There have been people who, for whatever reason, have decided that this journey is too long or too cumbersome or too uncomfortable to continue with me. They have quietly (or in some cases boldly announced) dropped off the road they were walking with me. I don’t know if I necessarily blame them. Like I said, it is an excruciating journey full of pain. The problem, though, is that when a person decides I am too much of a burden for them, it reinforces the fact that I am too much of a burden for anyone.
And that kind of thinking quickly spirals into a place that is not a good place.
I do realize that some people have situations change in their own lives so that helping to shoulder the heavy burden of another is just not possible. If both of my arms are broken, I am not going to be able to help a friend move. The thing is, though, I would tell that friend, “Hey, I’d love to help but right now, both of my arms are in casts, so I probably wouldn’t be any help at all.” That seems like a better alternative than quietly exiting the life of a person who is already floundering and wondering if her life has any value whatsoever.
Life itself is a long, winding, unpredictable journey. At any given moment, anyone could be the recipient of a phone call that will change our lives forever. Anyone could find themselves in the place I have been in the last 6 months. I don’t know how much longer this darkness will last. I don’t know how much more strength I have to keep fighting. I do know that there are fewer and fewer people who are willing to continue this journey with me. I try not to dwell on that. Instead, I try to remember those who, so far, have chosen to continue this dark and rocky path with me, stopping when I need to stop and helping me up when I stumble. They are brave and strong when I am not. Their faith is stronger than mine and they don’t mind sharing some of it with me. Their arms are healthy to help carry a very heavy burden. If I get to the other side of this healthy, I will never forget them. I will be forever grateful to them for their perseverance in texting me, calling me, messaging me, stopping by to see me even when I may seem to push them away. Depression and illness is a lonely road full of scary things and not one I would wish on anyone. I hope, though, if someone I know does end up going through similar deep waters, I will not be one who quietly disappears from her life. I would hope that I would be like the very few I have on my side right now, staying in the fight to the very end, with actions and not just words.