A summer of pain opened up a new world to me

  • August 29, 2012
Being dependent on others is spiritually difficult. That’s just one of the lessons I’ve learned during my summer of suffering.

It started in late spring when I experienced debilitating back spasms. I was prescribed a muscle relaxant that induced a violent physical reaction, causing my family to call 911 and sending me to hospital for 12 days. I was virtually immobilized for well over a month and discovered what it’s like to surrender a busy work agenda and summer holiday plans.

Throughout a hot summer, I was almost totally dependent on family and friends. All of my life I’ve worked hard to be in control. But I had to learn how it felt to have little control over your life.

Over the years I’ve read many books about saints who said suffering is a gift. But between rounds of morphine, medical appointments, medical tests and excruciating pain, this gift has been hard to accept. Still, I’m trying. And there has been some joy among the pain.

One night, I was crying out with despair. My teenaged son looked me in the eye and said: “Mom, offer it up! Do you know how many people you can help with this? Offer it up! That’s what you always tell me. Offer it up as a sacrifice.” 

As a mother of two teenagers my heart soared to heaven and back again. It was the same when my daughter brought me my favourite candy bar, Coffee Crisp, after school just to cheer me up.

I have become particularly grateful for the sacrament of marriage and the gift of family. Who else besides my husband and children would help me do all the things I’ve been physically unable to do myself? Early in my ordeal, I laughed when my husband remarked: “How in the world have you made dinner every night for all these years? I’ve made dinner for three days in a row and I am already running out of ideas?”

After a recent appointment with an orthopedic surgeon, feeling a bit confident about using my new walker, I thought I’d try to run an errand. With my husband out front and me wobbling behind, I made my way through the mall to update my driver’s license. It was overwhelming to see people moving so quickly while I shuffled along in my walker. Everyone seemed in such a hurry. 
I ended up stepping on something that tweaked my back and pinched a nerve. I screamed. I was standing in my walker, in the mall, screaming in pain.

When I found a chair, a little old lady, probably in her mid-80s, wearing a pink blouse, with silver hair, all sorts of delightful jewelry and just the right amount of makeup, sat right down beside me. My eyes were closed and tearing up, and I was praying under my breath. She put her hand on top of mine and gently said: “God will help you through this!”

Her face was angelic. She said a few things to encourage me. Before long we were both in tears, talking about our love for Him. Her name was Iva. I will never forget that precious moment when a stranger, a sister in Christ, reached out to ease my suffering. It made me think of all the times I ignored people because I was in a hurry.

After some rest, I wheeled to a mall exit while my husband got the car. Another woman approached me. She told me about the time a few years ago that she was rear-ended by a drunk driver. She understood pain and she consoled me.
Moments later I noticed a man walking stiffly with a grocery cart. I asked him, “Do you have a back injury?”
“Oh no, I had a stroke a few years ago,” he replied.
 That night I prayed the chaplet and the rosary, praying for my family, my new friends at the mall and all people who are suffering, sick or lonely.

My injury, the ordeal in the walker, the entire summer of pain, has opened up a new world.
There have been bittersweet moments of joy amidst the pain. I thank God for each and every one of them.

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