Monday, May 30, 2011

The Ongoing Battle with Grief - Shepherd

I really do not know what to do about this grief thing. Just as I think that I have it under control, something happens and it moves into the foreground once more. I thought I was doing so well, to be able to even talk about John’s accident in television interviews with hardly a catch in my throat. Then came one of our regular phone conversations.
“What have you been up to?” was my usual query. John’s answer was that he was trying to book a hotel room with a roll in shower in the city where they were having the annual meeting of one of the Boards he belongs to. He was having no success and had decided that he would have to rent a bath bench. My stomach churned with anxiety when he shared this information.
A roll in shower is the safest way for him to bathe. I hate bath benches! They are so insecure for someone who is unable to sit up unassisted because of a spinal cord injury. All day long, I kept praying, “Lord, please help him find an available room with a roll in shower.”
I felt the anxiety mounting and the fear and grief once again rearing their ugly heads as the tears sprang to my eyes every time I thought about. Like a magnet, these thoughts seemed to cling to the back of my mind and I could not shake them off. If only…. He has to worry about so many complicated details, when he needs to travel! It seems so unfair. As well as the need for a roll in shower, he also has to arrange for an attendant to help with his morning routine for getting up and ready for the day. There is not one day in life when he does not have to depend on someone to come and help him get ready to face the day. I feel my chest tighten with anxiety as I again realize how challenging life is for him.
He explains why he has not found time to work out details for a visit with us. Not only must he find solutions for the accessible hotel room and attendant. He must also work out arrangements for another trip he needs to make to Washington, to participate in a conference about people with spinal cord injuries. Getting there will not be easy. It seems like nothing ever is for John.
The normal plane that flies from Toronto to Washington does not have a large enough door to accommodate his power chair. He has a couple of options, he has now discovered. One possibility is to have someone take the chair apart enough so that it can squeeze through the door. In this case, he must ensure that the pieces that are taken apart are all kept with the chair so that it can be reassembled correctly at his destination.
The other option is to fly to another city in an aircraft that has a door large enough to accommodate his chair and then take a flight from there to Washington with the same stipulation. His fear is that every time he gives up his chair, he risks that something may happen to it and he will not be able to use it when he arrives at his destination. This fear is based on travelling experiences he has had. When a power chair replaces your body, as your method of locomotion, its availability and functionality are crucial.
John does not share these challenges with us to get our sympathy or to elicit our help. He just needs to be able to safely vent his frustrations somewhere, and I am delighted that he feels free to do so. I am sure that I would not be able to handle the thousands of frustrations every day with anything like the amount of grace, he does.
However, his frustrations bring my grief to the fore once more. I know that the Lord will supply his needs, but if I am honest, I sometimes wonder why He does not do so more quickly. This uncomfortable situation makes me confront my own lack of belief. I can identify so much with Bill Gaither, when he sings, “I believe, help Thou my unbelief. I long so much to feel the warmth that others seem to know.” Sometimes He seems so far away and so silent. Yet in the depths of my being, I do believe, even when I do not see the evidence that God is at work. I guess that is what it means to walk by faith. I must stare my grief and fear in the face and not allow them to hold me captive. I must learn from John to gather up my courage and go on, overcoming the obstacles and moving forward one turn of the wheel at a time.


Peter Black said...

Eleanor, what a close-up view into the complexity of John's daily existence, and how that complexity ramps up when making airflights and trips! The frustration, concern, and shadow of grief revisited (reflected in the "if onlys") that you experience at such time is understandable. As I neared the end of this helpful and sensitizing piece, the thought occurred to me that in some sense John, through his courage and faith and willingness to engage life as fully as he does, mentors you -- his mother! You learn from him. I've become aware that in certain respects I'm learning from my adult sons, too.
BTW -- great photo of John.
Blessings to you all.

Eleanor Shepherd said...

You are so right, Peter. I have written at times about how my son has been my teacher as I have watched him deal with the challenges of his life. I think parenting has taught me more about life and faith than anything else has. Thanks so much for your comments.

Popular Posts