Many of us are probably well acquainted with this idea. A tiny niggling pain, a doctor’s visit, a diagnosis – and suddenly, nothing will ever be the same again.
We constantly live on the edge of this uncertainty. All of us – every day, every minute.
Covid19 and chronic illness
For as long as I can remember I have known I will not have my mum forever, and yet that split second phone call during my lunch break at work when I heard she had a mass in her pancreas still changed everything.
For as long as I can remember I’ve devoured books where dramatic things happen. Kids die too young; people are wounded in battle; last minute inheritances save the day; all is lost and all is rescued over and pver again. Yet I still remember exactly where I was when I found out that my ten year old friend had died suddenly from an undiagnosed brain tumour.
Likewise, I suspect that while many of us may “know” the speed with which reality can be remade, these past few weeks of of COVID-19 have also come as a bit of shock. No one really expects a pandemic. Not many people imagine that soon their actions – perhaps already severely curtailed by disease or circumstance – will be hedged further by governments seeking to prevent disaster.
What’s your goal in troubled times? As much as we’re often told that it’s okay to simply survive, most of us, if we’re completely honest, want more than that.
We want to turn something bad into something good. Something worthwhile. Maybe even something precious. There’s a reason so many cancer tragedies end in the formation of an organisation or charity. There’s a reason we prefer tales of people who have overcome illness, rather than the much more common stories of being overcome.
Christians talk a lot about peace. So much so that it’s easy to feel like you’re doing something wrong it you’re not an unflappable yogi during trials.
In every day life, most of us depend on our health – for the future, for happiness, for security. When your health or the health of a loved one is ripped away because of chronic illness, it’s easy to be left despondent.
After that awful, sinking feeling of having the foundation of your life pulled out from underneath your feet, our natural response it often to quickly rebuild.
We hunt desperately for a new foundation, a new hope. But what will it be? Sometimes it’s easy to break our hope into little bits and place it in different baskets.
3 places not to place your hope in during chronic illness
Have your dreams ever been broken? Have you ever wept because something you hoped for will never be?
A ‘broken dream’ sounds like something from a fairy-tale or a Shakespearean sonnet, something which doesn’t quite happen in the 21st century.
Are you brave enough to admit to having broken dreams?
We all have dreams
Who lives entirely in the present? Very few of us! Even if we don’t label them as such, I think we’ve all had dreams, hopes or idealisations of the future.
For some of us, these dreams will involve loving spouses and healthy children.
For others it might look like a peaceful retirement, a satisfying vocation or simply, security.
Considering our future in the presence of chronic illness is even harder. Illness is unpredictable.We can’t say how long our family member will need us, or how soon they will take a turn for the better or the worse.
We need to be realistic, but also hopeful.
Loving someone who is ill or aging means that whatever decisions you make, you are making them for two. That is a lot of responsibility, and there is a huge pressure to ‘choose right’.
Sooner or later all of us want to look into the future. The time comes when we need to sit down with pen and paper and plan out our next few years. The problem with doing this as a Watcher is that chronic illness extends into the future too! It’s a big part of our life and we can’t ignore it or naively pretend that it will simply ‘go away’.
How then do we plan our future, keeping in mind our Loved One’s chronic illness?
How to plan your future while thinking of your sick family member
1. We admit it is hard
I think we’d all admit that planning our future is hard anyway. Whether you have too many possibilities or not enough, it’s difficult to figure out what something we have never experienced will look like. Most of us have dreams we’d like to see become reality, or at the very least we dream that one day we will have dreams.
Considering your future in the presence of chronic illness is even harder. The reason for this is that chronic illness is unpredictable. We can’t say how long our Loved One will need us, or how soon they will take a turn for the worse or for the better. We want to be realistic, but we also want to be hopeful.
Of course life is unpredictable for all of us. I could die tomorrow. And yet loving someone with chronic illness means that my future plans will impact them. Whatever I decide there will be some ramifications in their life – and so the burden to ‘choose right’ becomes even heavier.