Love vs. Cooties (a thought for Lent)

There are all kinds of care givers. We are parents of a child living with autism. There are adult kids caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s, spouses caring for sick or disabled partners, and all kinds of other arrangements where folks are living a typical life one day and thrust into the world of medicine, therapy, advocacy, domestic labor and who-knows-what the next.

One of the frequent complaints I hear from care givers is the way that family and friends start to draw back from the situation. Some folks feel completely abandoned in their efforts to take care of a loved one. A few quotes from other care givers:

I have found that we have become more and more isolated as time goes on.

Maybe it’s too much to ask for somebody to just be there to listen or hold your hand or just exist in the same space…

I guess my question is why You’ve taken every single earthly, tangible aspect of faith from us? Church. Sacraments. Spiritual support. Friends. Family. You’ve given us both loneliness.

There used to be a similar complaint from divorced people, although the culture has changed so much I’m not sure if its’ still a reality. But over the years, I heard divorced people lament how friends, especially other married couples, floated away from them.

I think that we all share a human tendency to turn away from situations that scare us. There’s a primitive fear that another person’s dilemma is contagious, like cooties. Maybe the roots are some evolutionary impulse to separate from that which could introduce a defect into our gene pool. Maybe they are spiritual – we don’t want to stand too close to someone who seems to be suffering the wrath of the gods.

Whatever the source, a Bible passage I heard on Ash Wednesday reminded me that the real God wants us to overcome the fear and to love those is distress as though we are part of one another:

“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

(Isaiah 58:6-7 ESV)

That’s a tall order, to see someone else’s distress as a hurt to “my own flesh.” The passage puts it in the context of “fasting.” It is to starve my selfishness and fear of “cootification” in order to reach out and make another’s burden lighter in any way for which I am equipped. As that one care giver lamented in the quotes above, sometimes that’s as little as to “just be there to listen or hold your hand or just exist in the same space.”

That Ash Wednesday lesson went on to say that God blesses such love,

Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’

(Isaiah 58:8-9 ESV)

I pray that God’s Spirit will cleanse fear from hearts and bring loving people alongside isolated care givers.

Friday the 13th is a relief

…because Thursday the 12th was rough. Joey suffered a seizure and hit the floor hard. By some blessed something, he didn’t suffer head or neck trauma.

I’m hoping that Melissa will come on here and blog some of her post-event thoughts, because she crashed into some big ideas and feelings and I don’t know that I can do them justice. The words need to come from her heart.

Joey slept well through the night and was himself this morning. He’s at his day program and the staff is aware of last night’s rude surprise.

One of the prayers I offer each morning asks God to

“give us such an awareness of your mercies, that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise…”

I am thankful this morning that our son did not injure his head or neck when he fell during the seizure last night. I am thankful for all who hold him up (more literally than I sometimes realize) in prayer, and for Melissa comforting him after the seizure. I’m thankful that he slept well last night and seems himself this morning.

I praise God that this Friday the 13th is better than the day before, at least so far.

The Running Man

Actually he walked.

There was a big fundraiser for LifeScape, the community agency that serves our son and so many special needs families ’round here.

Their goal was $100,000, and last I heard they were well past that.

IMG_20150207_093406_181A local mall was packed with families, teams from businesses and churches (including ours), and all kinds of good hearted folks of all ages, sponsored by donors to walk around for a good cause.

IMG_20150207_090723_494Our son Joey came along. He was drowsy, not amused with having his laid back post-donut Saturday interrupted with “work,” and he popped me with a jab when I tried to comb his hair for a picture. But he settled down and walked the two laps just fine.

It was a fun, high energy event with cheerleaders, clowns, bands and most of all scads of positive, caring people.

And Joey’s worn out and resting so mom and dad can chill, too.

Heh heh added this because Joey definitely “walks to the beat of his own drum”…

Second hand autism

Forgive me if this is a stream of consciousness. You’ll understand in a few lines.

Melissa and I just saw an advertisement for one of the ever present wonder drugs, noting the “possible side effects” like, oh, you know, strokes, seizures, death…

Oh, and this one included “lack of sleep.”

That reminded us that Joey, who is very excited about his upcoming birthday (still weeks away) stayed up all night chattering, flicking on lights, and depriving us of sleep. It hit us how tired we are at the moment.

So somehow my mind, in this altered state, jumped from “drug side effects” to “second hand smoke.” I told you, stream of consciousness.

And the big take away:

LACK OF SLEEP IS SECOND HAND AUTISM

You’re welcome.

By the way, over the last few years Melissa and I have been on-and-off at work on a book about the care giving life, and we have a publisher. Hoping to announce its release in the months ahead.