We are celebrating Mama today because it is her birthday.
But I am celebrating more than just that she was born today.
I am giving thanks for the difference between last year and today.
Last year at this time Mama was in a hospital, she weighed less than 100 pounds and was struggling to retain consciousness. After weeks of testing, she had little hope left that she would ever know what was really wrong with her.
Flash forward a year and she is full of hope and living life again. She rode a zip line with her grandchildren last week.
Through taking several brave measures, one being the involvement of a therapist with a good heart, Mama began to manage her symptoms successfully, even as she continued seeing doctor after doctor in an attempt to isolate her physical problems to a certain culprit.
She learned to live with the ambiguity of her illness. She learned to take life a day at a time. She learned to rest.
She shined light into a lot of darkness, just in case there was an unturned stone that might lead to healing.
She found medicines that worked, but she hated taking them. She stopped taking them and got worse. She started taking them again reluctantly. She made pacts with my dad and me that she would not stop taking them again without talking to us. She kept those pacts even though it was hard. She kept them even though there is a demon that tells us that we don’t really need the things in life that make us better, be it medicine, exercise, spinach or scriptures. She faced that demon down and for the most part, she won.
As I write all that out, it seems like a lot to accomplish in a year, but I can assure you that it was a long year (especially fall) and that there were many setbacks along the way. There were many days that it seemed to Mama like she would never really feel good again, and she had to accept the reality that her new normal might be very different from what she wanted it to be.
Also, even though I am isolating this journey to the last year, it is really so much longer. It is a whole life of needing to be all things to all people. It is trying to keep up with a husband who was blessed with boundless energy and youth. It is not admitting weakness. It is equating being busy with self worth. And it is being ruled by shame and guilt rather than passion and joy.
And this journey will continue. Like many before her, Mother will fight some of these battles her whole life. But I believe that the progress she abandoned herself to this year has opened the door for God to give her what she really wanted all along.
The knowledge of what she is up against.
Just a few weeks ago, Mama tested positive for Lyme Disease. We’re not even going to talk about how many books she has read about this disease since she got the results. (We attack all things in our family by reading. If you know enough about something, you have control over it, right? Wrong.)
I don’t know why she wasn’t tested for Lyme Disease a year ago, but it amazes me to consider what she might have missed if she had moved forward with a diagnosis instead going down a different path of discovery.
Learning to live with uncertainty about what was wrong with her was the battle my mama needed to fight this year.
That I got to fight that battle alongside her is a gift I am still unwrapping.
I don’t know how her health will progress. Come to think of it, none of us know how we will feel tomorrow or what is coming next year. This is the Cloud of Unknowing that we live under every day, even if we are oblivious to it.
But the cloud makes me more acutely aware of daily blessings.
A few of them from the last year…
Feeling good enough to take a morning walk. Rain falling. Jumbline. A man who asks good questions. Post-therapy lunches. Cancelled plans. Pages full of encouraging words. Making it through a long drive. A day without fear. An hour without self-condemnation.
Surrendering to not knowing and comfort in a God who knows.
Letting go. Holding on.
Cheers to a new year and new journeys. To feeling good enough to hike trails and ride zip lines with grandkids on good days. To finding joy in resting well on the others.