Trials and blessings
These days I am beginning to feel like an old lady. With a low energy level, I am not too motivated to do anything.
For a couple of months, I have been suffering from a disc problem in my neck (cervical spine radiculitis, the doctor says). The pain I am experiencing in my right arm just won’t go away. A severe tingling sensation travels in waves up and down my arm, and two of my fingers get numb.
No pain killer seems to make any difference, and it’s there all the time. It sometimes feels like torture, and I would confess to anything at this point if it would just go away. This trial has colored my view of life and obscured the ocean of blessings I have received so far.
Someone said that we have no right to ask when sorrow comes why it is happening to us unless we ask the same question for every moment of happiness that comes our way. Whether I have any right to complain or not, I mumble my discomfort to air out my frustration. Even on Facebook, I fish for friends’ comforting words. I used to think poorly of people who constantly talked about their aches and pains. Who knew that I would be getting my own comeuppance?
I just re-read Harper Lee’s ``To Kill a Mockingbird,” the 1961 Pulitzer winner. The main character, Atticus Finch, is the court-appointed defending attorney for a black man falsely accused of raping a white girl, on trial for his life in 1935. The setting is a small town called Maycomb in the state of Alabama. Atticus Finch is a widower with two children, Jem (12) and Scout (8).
Many times in the book readers get to see scenes of his parenting method in which he tries to present pointers for the right kind of thinking and living. I remember a particular scene in the book where Atticus explains to Scout that she needs to develop a ``simple trick” to get along with people ― the simple trick of learning to ``climb into somebody’s skin and walk around in it.” She needs to imagine being in the other person’s shoes to understand where they are coming from.
After all these years I have enjoyed relatively good health, I realize that I have had very little understanding of other people’s ailments, physical suffering, and handicaps. I did not know how to wear another’s moccasins and walk in them. I didn’t know how to climb into their skin and walk around in it. I am ashamed to admit it. Now that I am tasting and seeing what it means to be in pain, my eyes and heart are open to see others’ pain. I guess I am finally maturing. I guess it’s about time.
One of my new friends recently told me that she spent more than 40 years looking after her husband, who was confined to a wheelchair due to a neck injury from a diving accident. His last ten years were especially demanding. He died five years ago. This dear wife goes to his grave once a week traveling two hours each way from her home to the cemetery.
I can deduce from her loving remarks that he was a wonderful person, a very encouraging husband, and a cheerful sufferer. No one can suspect this unusual history when one is privileged to meet this friend. Her sweet disposition and cheerful face weekly brighten up the homeless people who come for lunch to St Bernard’s church, where she volunteers.
One of my husband’s aunts had three children. One of them was born with a birth defect so that she was severely mentally challenged. Both have passed away but during their life time they were my object lessons. Each time I was with them, I was reminded how little I know how to love. Aunt Dorothy’s love for her handicapped daughter was an ocean deep and her patience was that of a saint. Instead of lamenting on her lot of having this kind of a child, she was constantly concerned about the well-being of her daughter. Her suffering was not for herself but for the travails of her daughter, who was physically not too robust and was constantly sick with one or another illness all throughout her life.
These trials and tribulations never clouded our aunt’s outlook. I never saw her ever being bitter. Among all my relatives East and West, Aunt Dorothy gets my vote for the best relative I’ve ever had.
Now that I have taken stock of and surveyed my own angels who set the good examples for me, I shall toss aside all self-pity for this pain in my arm. I shall buckle up and choose this moment to endure the affliction with as much cheerfulness as I can summon up.
Nevertheless I can’t help uttering the Irish blessings to you all as I am sprinkling the same for myself and family: ``May your days be many and your troubles few. May all God’s blessings descend upon you!”
Hyon O'Brien is a former reference librarian now living in the United States. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.