The thing that surprised me the most about blogging is the comments. When I blog, I search my mind, my heart or my soul, (or sometimes I just search my photo files) for something to write about. I type it in and hit publish. And then somewhere on this continent, or across an ocean, you read it. And sometimes you respond.
This is wonderful for many reasons. The first one is— just the verbal acknowledgement of a simple comment like, “Good post,” lets me know I’ve been heard. That’s why writers write, to be heard. Acknowledgement. It’s wonderful.
Sometimes you or someone else will go one step further and say, “This happens to me too. I know how you feel.” That lets me know I am not alone. Someone understands. Affirmation. Wonderful and soothing.
I’ve had people give me helpful suggestions, “You might try this,” or “This is how I handle that.” Now the reader cares about what I’m saying and is touching my life. He or she has given me something that I take inside, a new way to think about something, or do something. My life has been changed. Life-expanding. And wonderful.
Many times a reader’s comments will challenge me, sometimes in subtle and diplomatic ways, but occasionally in a very upfront way. The reader has not only heard me, understood me, and cared, the reader is trying to move me.
This happened very recently on my A Matter of Faith post from June 29th. Sally is a blogger I found and continue to follow because of her posts about her mother with Alzheimer’s. She writes a blog called Hot Dogs and Marmalade — Recipes for Life/ Caring for Family aged 7 – 82. Here is an early post she wrote about her mother that you might like — The Twilight Zone.
Sally has a good sense of humor and strong faith in God. She left the following comment on my Matter of Faith post:
“Hi Christine — I’ve been thinking about this post of yours for days now.
The thing that jumped out at me was the fact that you viewed your sister Annie as a gift, but not your father’s Alzheimer’s. I think we learn more about God and our faith in God through suffering than any other way. It’s when we pour ourselves out for another that we can see God.
That’s the whole basis of Christianity, a God who left the comforts of heaven to get blisters on his feet as he walked from town to town healing people and giving them hope, and then finally getting nails in his hands as suffered tremendously at the end. It wasn’t fair. But it was love.
My mother’s Alzheimer’s is a gift. It is in caring for her that I better understand the sacredness of life. I think you would say the same about Annie.
Even though I have waited days to respond, I still have a hard time putting words to my faith. It’s my core. It’s my rock. It’s my hope.
Love to you — Sally”
Sally saw through all the noise and zoomed in on the basic contradiction I’ve been living with. Annie, with her severe brain damage and complete disability was a gift. My dad with Alzheimer’s and an increasing amount of disability is not. Sally’s right. There is a disconnect here.
I want to say, “Well, the two cases are very different. Annie was always that way. We didn’t lose her to her disability. She was born with it. Annie was always happy and smiling. She was a joy to be around. She wasn’t taken away from us. She was given to us.
“Dad, on the other hand, used to be a strong, intelligent, loving, giving man. Now he barely speaks. We have to watch him lose his abilities one by one. He’s started falling out of bed. He fell out of his chair. He never smiles and he cries often. He is sad to be around. He is being taken away from us one slow step at a time.”
But Sally is very right when she says about her mother, “It is in caring for her that I better understand the sacredness of life. I think you would say the same about Annie.”
True. So very true. It is what made Annie a gift to me. I saw and knew things about life because of her, and because of watching my parents care for her, that I likely never would have known otherwise. I’ve always said, of all the people who have ever touched or influenced my life, Annie is the one who had the greatest influence on my character. It’s true.
But here’s the thing. I’m not sure my parents saw Annie as a gift when she was first diagnosed. I’m sure they didn’t see her disability as a gift at that time. Annie lived for 51 years. Everyone had time to accept and process what was going on. She became recognized as a gift with time.
We’re still neck-deep with pain and grief over Dad. It’s only been a few years since he was diagnosed, and we continue to have to watch him slip away. The grief overwhelms any sense of gift.
Maybe later I will be able to see it that way. I’m just not there right now.
But I want to give a heart-felt thank you to Sally for challenging me, because in my mind I know she is right. It’s my heart that has the problem.