I am so full. It seems to be my role to simply, silently absorb the knocks and tensions – take them in to my being, suffocate them in the dark, sit on them until they lie still. Whenever Sam is having a bad day, he comes round to let off steam – or calls me over to his house – in need of someone just to listen to how hard it all is. I am the default sounding board, the punchbag, the privileged soul who sits under the vent and lets the uninterrupted flow roll down.
For woe betide me if I do interrupt! No replies are needed, no answers, just murmurs of sympathy and affirmation: there is no fixing this, not even room to say, “I know” – because I clearly don’t, not from his point of view anyway. So I sit and take it in, the anger and despair, the back and forth – and I can only hold it, receive the filth and courage all mixed up, until he has off-loaded, worked it through and feels relieved. It is – of course – utter agony for me: I have a way of going numb and tears rarely fall, but surely there’s an ocean of them inside somewhere, waiting to escape.
There simply are no answers to this pain – trite responses rarely help, they usually start another tirade of vitriol and doubt, while mentioning God’s love results in yet more questions and unhelpful theological debate. I am condemned to watch my son struggling under the weight he has to bear, the death sentence he strains to refuse and the impossibility of making any progress hampered by so strong a foe. He’s angry with the doctors for their opinions of his prognosis, angry with the healers for giving him impossible hope, frustrated with himself for having so much he could do if only he had time, resources, energy… perhaps a fully working brain would help, but he has done so well with the one he has, how could we ask for him to be other than he is?
After a while, I’ve found his mood will change: the atmosphere lightens, and he asks for the reassuring hug. “I’m not mad with you, mum – it’s not your fault. I love you so much”. He feels better, perhaps invigorated, purposeful again – I am dismissed and stagger home. Or if he’s turned up on my door he’ll take his leave and I am left to regroup. Sometimes there is no resolution reached in his fevered mind he’ll simply break off and storm away, pale and furious, in irritation… those are the worst times when I wonder should I run after him to finish the job? But I’m learning to let go and know it’s not my responsibility – there is nothing I can do! So far he’s always got through in the end, talking to a friend on the phone or internet, or faithful Dean, who comes to see him twice a week: plus the comfort and distraction of his cats is a big help… all of which is amazing when you think about it and a relief for which we are more than grateful.
Healing: what is it? The internal and the external – recovery and restoration of the damaged part, whether heart, soul, mind or body. To me it implies a process, something that happens over time, rather than an instant event, which is what we usually expect when we pray for people to be healed: surely that is more a miracle we are asking for. We certainly need a miracle for Sam – that the tumour in his head, totally against it’s own nature, will stop growing and actually disappear. I do believe in miracles… but by definition they don’t happen very often and I have no idea whether we will see one in this case. But there is no doubt much healing has been going on in our son’s emotions, identity, spirit and mind over these past months – so we continue to pray, to persevere, to trust and to wait to see what will be physically achieved through all the different things that Sam has tried.
Meanwhile – what to think? He swings between the 2 extremes, unwilling to accept the awful threat of life cut short, the loss, the grief, and longing that his utterly determined fight will give a future and a hope – yet knowing that the odds are stacked against him: it is enough to drive anyone mad. So what else can I do, but willingly play my part in this drama, the lead supporting role. I keep talking to the Director about it, but I haven’t been shown the resolution of the story yet. In this life happy endings are not guaranteed, but whatever happens it is certainly a tale worth telling, living and learning from – it’s the one about the family that tried to bridge the gap between life and death, suffering and victory, without falling down the middle or being torn in half by the tension…
Meanwhile what do I do when the blotting paper of my soul is sodden and becoming useless? “She can’t take anymore, Captain, she’s gonna blow”! I can rest and recover, offload on other shoulders – surely my capacity is increasing all the time! – but in their human weakness, the mind and body are not coping quite as well as they were. I always need more daily grace, to keep on trusting I will not be taken beyond what I can bear, to get my priorities right and not expect too much of myself… and simply strength to set my face and persevere as I have to continue to absorb the flak: I hold all these things in my heart – it’s what a mother does.
And so absorption has become a key word for me – and there are other ‘A’ words I will write about in coming posts 😉 If I can take into myself the anguish of my son without reacting, I can make it into a prayer on his behalf, embodied in my own groans and tensed muscles. As I draw the poison I can present it to the Man of Suffering, like blotting paper marked by excess ink… Or maybe (lovely thought from school days chemistry!) like chromatography, I can be the absorbent filter paper separating the solution into it’s component parts and making a rainbow in the process.