Monday, June 22, 2015

Walk a mile

As I've battled Lyme disease for the last year, I've gone through the full gamut of emotions: depression, bargaining, confusion, denial, and many, many forms of anger -- anger at my doctors for not catching it early, anger at the outdoors, anger at the ticks, and a LOT of anger aimed at God. It's been the hardest thing for me to deal with.

But I experienced something today that put a lot of things in perspective for me.

Today would have been my mom's 77th birthday. I don't usually make a special trip to the cemetery to visit her, but since we were in town today, we took the small detour. We stopped to get flowers and I decided since I was there that I'd also make a quick stop and leave a lily on the headstone of Maria, my bestie's mom, since they're buried at the same cemetery.

My husband and I pulled up behind a car parked along the side of the road in the cemetery and I noticed near Maria's grave, there was a newly-dug gravesite. Wilted flowers were gathered near one end, not far from a clearly bereaved woman who was crumpled on the ground with her hand resting on the fresh dirt. I didn't recognize her (the cemetery is one of the biggest in Des Moines) and I don't make a habit of approaching grieving strangers, so I let her be as I walked toward Maria's grave.

I had trouble finding Maria's stone because I've only been there a couple of times, so I wandered a couple of minutes before I realized she lay to rest only about four sites away from the new grave. By now, the woman stood and I glanced over, catching her eye. She looked overwrought with pain and I was immediately drawn to her.

Softly, I said, "You look like you could use a hug." She nodded and I embraced the stranger. As an empath, I often feel the emotions of those I encounter and this woman was no different. Her pain was an overwhelming loss and it was almost too much for me, but I hugged her tighter. When I pulled away, I noticed a beautiful tattoo on her arm that had been recently inked. It was what appeared to be the face of a teenaged boy. Underneath it was his signature.

I immediately recognized the name and face as a sixteen-year-old boy who was recently murdered, and while I already knew the answer, I asked her if she was his mother. She nodded. 

I handed her the lily in my hand. "I think this will do you more good than the person I brought it for," I said. She took the flower and hugged me again. Realizing I could offer no more comfort (could anyone?), I spoke words of condolence and a promise of prayers for her family and left her again.

My tears fell once my back was turned, and I immediately realized that my anger at God was so foolish. How could I be angry at Him when this mother had so much more reason to be angry than I did? After all, when our children are hurting or sick, don't we beg God to cure them and give us the ailment instead? Don't we tell our kids, "If I could fight this battle for you, I would"?

I cannot fathom the pain of losing a child and can't begin to imagine how much grief this woman must be feeling to have him taken in such a violent way, but I knew that my frustration over a disease that I'm actively healing from...a disease that won't kill me...a disease that I can't pass to anyone else...that my frustration and anger was futile.

I don't know why I got Lyme disease. I don't know why this young man was killed. I don't know a whole lot of anything about why bad things happen. But I do know that I can't...that I won't spend one more minute being angry. I'm still alive. Everything else is manageable.

I continue to pray for this woman and her broken family. I hope you will, too.