PARENTS WITH CHRONIC ILLNESS – YOU ARE NOT A FAILURE
My mum has a chronic illness. She’s been sick for as long as I can remember. Mum, this letter is for you.
DEAR PARENT WITH A CHRONIC ILLNESS,
You don’t have to say it aloud. I’ve read it in your sighs, your looks, your actions.
The confession. The apology.
My sickness has damaged the happiness of my child.
I, who brought them into the world, who had all these plans, these hopes – have been able to do one percent of all I dreamed.
I wasn’t the one to bake with them, to take them to the beach, to bush walk, to laugh – someone else did these things, and sometimes, no one did them.
AM I A FAILURE?
You don’t think these thoughts all the time. You are too strong, too smart, too sensible, for that. The hope you have in the life that will be (which will more than make up for this one) is too tenacious. And yet, sometimes, I suspect these thoughts wander through your mind. I know they would wander through mine, were the situations reversed.
So I write you this letter. Not because written words can replace spoken ones, but because there’s something formal about them, something reassuring. Besides, this letter is long, and often you don’t have the energy or health for an extended emotional chat. And that is okay.
WHERE SHOULD I START?
I could remind you that I love you (and would never wish you away), simply because you are my mother. But you would laugh and shrug that off, because you believe that “all children think that.” Perhaps you are right.
I could explain that I never wanted any of the things healthy parents give their children. I never wanted to bush walk or cook or play Monopoly. And while that would be true in one sense (you are more important than your gifts), it would be a lie to say I have never dreamed of an alternative life with a healthy version of you in which we did those things.
While I could shrug away your concerns and point out that none of this matters, because we can’t change the past and we have a future to look forward to. What will be will be. But that would be unhelpful, as it would trivialize your pain and mine.
So instead of explaining that your sickness has not minimized my life, I will tell you how it has enriched it.
BECAUSE YOU ARE SICK, I KNOW WHAT IT IS TO:
- give, even when you don’t receive.
- receive even when you can’t give.
- live in a world that does not revolve around me.
- seek something better than this life.
- comfort someone older than myself.
- view sickness as just one component of a person, and to respect them.
- love in plenty and in want.
- accept that life is not perfect, not ideal, and that’s okay and even good.
Those are the lessons I’ve learned from your sickness, but you are not your sickness.
You are you.
And from you I’ve learned to love the elderly, to make do with little, to double question every fact and make rational decisions, to delight in animals (even those society does not deem cute!), to care enough about my appearance to look nice when I ought to, and not to care when I can’t, and most of all … to persevere, to get up and live each day, not because it’s exciting, not because life is always good, not because things are going my way, but because that is how we love others. And that is how we live for God.
Dear Parent with Chronic Illness,
At times you may feel like a failure. You may feel as though you have little to offer, and even less to delight in. You may feel as though you have not changed the life of your child one iota.
But know this:
In loving, you have taught your child how to love. In being imperfect, you have trained your child to seek perfection only in God. And in being sick, you have shown your child how to genuinely live this life with all its ups and downs.
Dear Parent with chronic illness, you are loved, and your sickness has not lessened who you are, but has added to it.
Illness is not a good thing, but it has brought good.
Even if you can’t see it yet.
Child of a Chronically Ill Parent
More Posts by Emily
Long-distance watching changes the paradigm — we cannot physically help our loved one anymore. Yet we can still be a blessing.
So how do we live through disaster well? We take our terrifying anxieties and our aching sorrows in both hands and we look heavenward. We choose to let despair draw us to Jesus, rather than away.
Emily J. Maurits
Chronic Joy® Contributing Writer
After working for several years in the public health sector, Emily is now studying theology. She believes we are all called to love suffering people, because that's what Jesus did. She is passionate about equipping and encouraging others to do just that, and founded www.calledtowatch.com for the family and friends of those with chronic illnesses. As well as uncovering God's presence in the chaos of life, she enjoys reading, running, and writing, with her memoir coming out next year.
YOU’RE INVITED TO DISCOVER MORE
Raising a child with chronic illness – a blessing in disguise. Parenting a child with chronic illness requires more strength, resolve, perseverance and courage than we likely ever dreamed possible, yet it also blesses us with the gifts of compassion, perspective, presence, and profound love as we are daily drawn closer to Christ.
We all know people suffering from sickness, disability, depression, or grief. Where are we to find strength in such circumstances? Dave Furman offers support, encouragement, and wisdom for those called to care for others in need - equipping us to effectively care for the hurting and pointing us to the strength that God provides.
Suffering: Gospel Hope When Life Doesn’t Make Sense
Paul David Tripp
Sometimes life just hurts.
Out of nowhere, death, illness, unemployment, or a difficult relationship can change our lives and challenge everything we thought we knew--leaving us feeling unable to cope. But, in the midst if all this pain and confusion, we are not alone.