I recently went to a conference where I met a lot of new people.
Which (necessarily) led to lot of introductions – and because this was a writing conference, it also led to a lot of answering the question: what do you write?
Which in turn led to explaining about this blog, and after that, about my Loved Ones – namely, my mum and my sister. After the first five times I got my ‘blurb’ down pat:
“I write a blog about loving people with chronic illnesses, as my Mum has multiple diseases including pernicious anemia and type 1 diabetes (with all its associated problems) and my sister had a brain tumour and now her body does not produce any hormones.”
It was a ‘neat’ answer, but after offering it a couple more times I found myself growing increasingly uncomfortable. I found it difficult to repeat, to the point where I had to practically force myself to say it and felt like I was rushing to get it over and done with.
Love in a Time of Chronic Illness: Why Illness is not everything
Was I ashamed of my family?
Was I tired of them?
Or simply tired of answering the question?
No, I knew it was a way to love others around me and love my family too.
Did I dislike the attention it drew to myself? Partly, no one likes to offer what sounds like a ‘sob’ story, but I knew it was the truth and part of me, and so that wasn’t the reason.
Then all at once I knew.
Words are not everything
In offering my pre-prepared response I was trying to condense two lifetimes into three sentences. In reducing my loved ones problems into words I felt like I was short-changing them. At the same time, I also felt like I was losing them.
You see, I never think of my Mum as ‘someone with multiple illnesses’ or my sister as ‘the girl who lived through a brain tumour but still struggles with the problems it left behind’. Not at all!
They are simply ‘Mum’ and ‘Sister’.
They are so much more than their health conditions.
There is always a person behind the illness
At once my discomfort turned to relief, and also thankfulness. Chronic illness can disrupt a life to the point where it feels like there is nothing left BUT the illness – but now I know that is NEVER true.
There is always the Person behind there, made in the image of the ultimate Person, dearly loved, their essential essence indestructible.
Prescriptions, diagnoses and treatments – even 10, 20, 40 years of them – could not erase the reality that Mum was still Mum and Sister is still Sister.
And so I thank God.
My realisation doesn’t made my necessary pre-prepared response any easier to say, but it does mean that alongside discomfort I can recognize joy.
Illness is not everything, even when it feels like it at times, and never is this more evident than when you try to ‘sum up’ a person in mere words.
This is the 4th in a series of posts called Love in a Time of Chronic Illness. The others include:
The gift that wasn’t for her (when loving people doesn’t make you happy)
//What about you? Do you have a pre-prepared response? Does it ever make you uncomfortable?
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