Punch-drunk (adjective) – stupefied by – or as if by – a series of heavy blows
Love (noun) – an intense feeling of deep affection and strong attachment
Punch-drunk love (clever descriptive phrase;movie and song title) – combination of the two.
*Disclaimer: any resemblance to the award winning 2002 movie of the same name is purely incidental. Neither has any known popular song ever been written about the particular case of love-induced bruising I am describing*
It wasn’t as if we didn’t have enough to cope with already, with Sam’s diagnosis. We were already pretty exhausted from the 10 month journey that had started with his brain scan on 1st April 2009. So when the hammer blow fell in January 2010 and, nursing our shocked and battered hearts, we were propelled into the ensuing weeks of radiotherapy, hair and appetite loss, misery, slow, slow recovery, consequent parental depression, constant uncertainty and all Sam’s efforts to find some treatment that might work… well, to be honest I don’t know how we have managed to get this far! Actually I do – it is through the amazing grace of God as we have been carried by many prayers and so much love.
You will have read all about it on here by now – the numerous posts about Sam’s journey and associated links to the stories and poems written during the intense winter months of early 2010. In many ways that time is now forgotten, with Sam’s hair miraculously growing back and no more visits to hospitals; the tumour has gone quiet since the start of this year, for reasons we can’t pinpoint – perhaps a mixture of the various things he’s tried and certainly an answer to our prayers. Although he is still struggling and thin – and often battles with his thoughts, frustrations and hopelessness – he is managing and seems generally well. The whole nature of the journey has changed since it took that incredible and life-saving twist just over 4 months ago when Jessica arrived.
The boy becomes a man, a wife arrives from overseas: at last he is able to leave the family home – and just in time before complete breakdown on both sides. She is the gift of God to all of us, despite the burdens that we now have taken on in addition to what we were already carrying! Before it was the 3 of us and satellite Rebecca, cut off in Brighton and coping bravely with her own response: we rode the storm and held on tight to God and tried as hard as we could to stay connected to one other… But as Sam began to make decisions we did not agree with, we just had to let go… this is his life, not ours, and all parents have to learn to make themselves redundant as adulthood arrives. It doesn’t stop you feeling it – the loss of all control is paralysing – but there is no other way: our determined trust in a Father Who is bigger has really helped us hand over the reins. Having made his choice and moved out, Sam now, quite rightly, has clearly changed allegiance and despite continued financial dependence on us his primary emotional unit is as a couple with Jess. And sister Becca remains a satellite, but instead of 3+1 it’s 2+2+1… another change in family dynamics for her to painfully absorb.
Although we have not been knocked down nor counted out, we have felt the multiple hits. Sam has had this poster of Ali on his wall for years as a reminder of a fighter par-excellance and although we are not lying on the mat, it still serves to remind us of the force we’re up against, the power of the fists we try to avoid! We have managed to stay standing on our wobbly legs, but cut, exhausted and a bit ‘punch drunk’ we’re definitely reeling, ‘stupified as if by a series of heavy blows’ and paying the physical and emotional cost of this long bout.
The past 4 months – and more particularly the 10+ weeks since the young couple moved into their own abode – have certainly been a time to gratefully readjust: the Lord must have known better than we did that we all needed a break! We surely couldn’t have gone on like that, the young man trapped upstairs, the mother worrying about him every day… The space is such welcome relief for mum and dad – and I hope for Sam son too – though the negative aspects of his new life seem to have pushed out the memory of imprisonment at home with the woman who nagged him about food from morning to night!
So now, still swaying as we lean against the ropes, we face another round – a new barrage of punches to roll with! Here comes the immigration lawyer and the UK Border Agency and we will have to duck and dive through all that red tape to get our daughter-in-law a visa to stay in the UK. We will have to send her back to the US before her current 6 months permission expires so she can re-apply to return to us from there. With nowhere to return to in Pennsylvania we’re more than grateful for the offer of hospitality from old friends in California – but I must ring the airline, organise the flight: got any Virgin air-miles going spare, Martin?
And of course, first the couple have to tie the knot – sign the papers, produce a certificate to give her legal right. Due to a queue of people in the same position, the appointment for ‘giving notice to marry’ cannot take place until September 9th and then the documents will take 2 weeks to come through: in hope that all will go well, a registry office appointment has been made for October 10th… and after that she has to leave within 4 days! The time pressure just adds to all of our emotional turmoil, as the young people try to work out how to live in harmony with no income in a one bedroom apartment – two diverse personalities and different social needs. We have to trust that somehow we’re on time, but it’s hard to wait without anxiety when any single slip will bring the whole plan crashing down! I can only pray their friendship pulls them through the tough times, disagreements and the tensions of carrying Sam’s burden and that love will cover all – a multitude of sins.
For we know love is more than a feeling, an attraction – however strong that may be: the Love that will not let us go is strong as death. It is a choice, it’s greatest measure reached when anyone lays down their life in other’s stead – the strongest force in the universe that never runs out: it’s source is God Himself. This love ‘bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things: Love never fails’ (1 Corinthians 13v7-8). Or as the NIV has it: ‘Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres…’ It takes us out beyond ourselves – we put the other first… the most selfless of all actions and the hardest of all decisions. It is self-denial at it’s height: I cannot have my own way bur for love’s sake I’ll believe that God will have His way and that He knows the cost – He will provide and can redeem it all.
So with another huge left hook coming our way as the purchase of another house goes through, again we duck our heads: the opportunity is there once more to choose not to let our hearts be troubled. The cost of it all, the hurdles to jump… whatever the metaphor, it is simply dizzying and always stressful as the key dates line up for significant events and appointments: a bit like a continuous assessment exam!
And this is just the start, to bring Jessica here and set them on their conjoined life. By Christmas maybe things will settle down a bit – as long as Sam stays well – and if it all goes smoothly as we hope… With all the daily challenges of health and food – just getting on with life and coping with the constant background noise – she needs a job, they both need purpose and routine – apart from the extraordinary things like invitations to appear on TV…
As 2012 appears on the horizon I wonder what our lives will look like then? Will the fight be over, will we be knocked out in the ring or can we go the distance? No doubt I’m battered and bruised from this long fight, I’m staggering and waiting for the bell – but what else can we do but ‘bear, believe, hope and endure’? It’s LOVE.