With Wes having cancer and me having The Multiplicity of Chronic Illnesses (fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and auto-immune low thyroid, along with a bad back) we are really really feeling the crunch of not having enough energy to go around or get it all done. (Not to mention Bethany's autism issues, Eric's leg pain...etc.) We are all drained. And it's pretty obvious that we don't have enough energy to do everything. Some things have been falling by the wayside, such as Maia's driving lessons (soon to be remedied by way of Kentucky Driving School), or putting a new light bulb in the front headlight of our car. Some things we just have to say "no" to because we don't have the energy to do them, such as parish banquets, or scouting. And some things we just have to do even when we feel like crap, like cleaning the house. Sort of. Yes, it is possible to vacuum while sitting down. It helps to have a chair with roller wheels.
So, I was thinking about this. About us. About what the real truth is that ought to be said when people ask us how we are and I say "fine! Wes is still working, glory to God!" While that is true, the other side of the coin is that he's working but he comes home very tired, and that is all he has energy for. And he was the person who used to make up for MY slack because of MY illness. Just because Wes has cancer doesn't mean I suddenly DON'T have all my health problems...because I still do. I am working as hard as I can to be as productive as possible, but there are limits. We aren't just a family with a sick parent, we are a family with TWO sick parents: A sick family. (because the kids aren't all that well, either, for all our efforts of making healthy choices notwithstanding.
So here is what sick families need:
1. Sick families need help sometimes...maybe offer to come on a Saturday to do some chores
for them: Yard work, garage clean up, our house cleaning. Things where
they can sit and direct traffic and
someone with energy can do the things that require energy. Because they are sick. And tired.
It gets lonely being sick and not having enough energy to go and do
fun things. Sometimes sick persons or families don't even have energy
to stay for coffee hour or fellowship after Church. If you have a chronically sick person or
family in your parish, call them and see if you can come by for a visit.
Visiting the sick is a corporeal act of mercy, long encouraged in the
Christian Tradition. If you bring a cake, there might just be wonderful
tea and fellowship.
3. Meals sometimes. Just because they are tired. All the time. Call up and offer this. Don't ask "Do you need
anything?" because that is an overwhelming question. Just pick
something and offer to do it. Your sick brother or sister in Christ
will feel loved.
4. Meals during emergency times, like when someone
is in the hospital, for sure. This is a ministry many parishes excel in. Keep doing it, because it is very needed. Even if the family has competent teenagers, consider that they are also feeling the shock, stress, and overwhelmedness of having one parent in the hospital, and the other parent at the hospital for many hours each day.
5. Extra hugs and being understanding if
the tears flow.
6. To be kidnapped for a night at a coffee shop or a
wine bar for a "girls night out" or "men's night out" ....especially if
you can do the driving if your friend is often sick and very tired in
the evening. Just because someone is sick doesn't mean they aren't still wanting contact.
7. The kids might still like to get together with their friends. But their parents are sick and tired and don't have the energy to make it happen. Invite the kids over to hang out with your kids (their friends) for game night, movie night or a sleepover or a fun outing like bowling or mini-golf. Offer to do the driving. \
8. A listening ear. Seek them out. Let them unburden and tell how it is, whether this happens at coffee hour, or you give a call or send a text... It might be hard to hear, but it's much harder to live it. God will give you the grace you need to love a person in this way. Be beside them in their grief.
9. Understanding: If your friend is not as involved in
parish life as you are, please know that it is not due to lack of love
for God and God's people or the community, but is truly due to illness
preventing attendance and participation. Pray for them, and know that they pray for you.
10. Prayer. This might be the hardest thing AND the easiest thing all at once. It helps a great deal traveling through cancer or chronic illness to know that we are being prayed for.
Who are the sick families or people in YOUR parish?