I remember that when I was a young mother, that I used to look at my mom who seemed to be constantly handling one crisis after another and wonder why she couldn’t seem to get things settled into calmness. My teenage brother was out of control, emotionally and behaviorally. Her mother needed back surgery, but her heart was too weak to allow it. Her father had colon cancer. Her friend was dying of breast cancer. My mother’s overall health was a problem. My dad’s job involved so much overtime that he didn’t have time for doctor appointments, even though the stress of his job was so great that he needed a doctor’s care. My grandmother had to be flown to Mayo Clinic in Rochester so that she could have her back surgery. My grandfather had to be put into hospice. My dad ended up with major medical issues due to stress and overwork. My mom’s health continued to degrade. My brother continued to be a problem at school and at home.
I remember thinking ‘Wow…you can’t get a handle on your life, can you? What exactly is the issue?”
I remember thinking then that I would never be like she was, desperately trying to maintain control of the many things that defied any attempt to bring them under control. I swore to myself that I would not allow myself to fall into that fate.
Would you like to know how I fared in avoiding my mother’s fate?
Let me tell you: I am 53.
My parents are aged.
My children are adults, and not always in my control.
My parents don’t always make the wisest decisions, at least not according to my thinking.
My husband works too many hours trying to take care of everyone he needs to take care of.
I work too many hours trying to take care of everyone that I need to take care of.
My dad has dementia.
My mother is chronically ill.
I am a minister and a licensed mental health counselor. Everyone wants my attention and my time, and I am doling myself out in little pieces to pretty much anyone who asks me for time or attention.
Brace yourself, because here it comes.
I have turned into my mother!!!!!
No woman of my age wants to say those words, not ever. I’m not really sure we want to say that we have turned into our father or our grandmother, either.
In the end, we all wish that we could escape this crazy, drama-laden portion of life known as the SANDWICH GENERATION…and we cannot avoid this mess because there is no way to avoid the middle portion of life and all the implications of aging parents, growing children, and an aging body.
I find myself reaching out for support, sometimes directly to friends on the phone, sometimes via email, and at other times via social media on Facebook.
“Pray for my parents. My father fell and broke all the bones in his face…”
“Pray for my friend’s family. Teri and Andy have three autistic children and Teri is dying of stage 4 breast cancer…”
“Pray for my neighbors Sheri and Mike. They discovered a number of aneurysms in Mike’s major arteries after his TIA earlier today. Never thought I’d praise God for a stroke…”
“Pray for…pray for….pray for…”
Those posts always receive a flood of reactions and comments, each one offering support. Some people take the time to offer you a prayer right then and there, on Facebook. Others promise personal prayer; still others offer to meet for coffee and give you a chance to unburden your heart.
I feel like a drama queen at moments like these, crying out to those who have ears to “PAY ATTENTION TO MY DISTRESS!” And good Lord, don’t they listen? Most of the people you reach towards pay attention to your distress at moments like those usually using 140 characters (or less). At the very least they press the right version of the ‘Like’ button, and at the very most they comment.
Do you want to hear a funny thing?
It really does.
I read those comments and reactions and I don’t feel so alone. Occasionally someone offers their own experience in a comment, reminding me that I am not the only person walking this difficult path. Sometimes close friends express their love in a post, and others call directly, asking how they can help.
I feel like a drama queen when I post, begging for love and attention.
By the time I’m done, I realize that God provides a mountain of people to lean on.
Some of them are virtual, responding only on social media.
Some reach out farther, emailing to ask how they can be most present to your distress.
Others call, giving you a chance to shed a few tears and relieve the stress just a little.
Some offer to accompany you to the hospital, offering support while dealing with the cold hard facts of all that has gone wrong.
And others do all they can to make room for your stress, offering to take on tasks, eliminate your workload, and do any small thing possible just to get something off your plate.
It’s at moments like these that I realize just how wrong Hillary Clinton was when she said “It takes a village to raise a child.”
The truth is that it takes a village to deal with every single stage of life. It takes a village to lean on. It takes a village to handle all the tasks that support a family. It takes a village to hear the pain of a single person. It takes a village to lift up a family in distress and let them know that they are not alone, no matter how bad things get.
It takes a village…no matter what the issue is.
If you ever wanted an answer to the question “Why does it matter if I go to church?” THIS would be it.
It takes a VILLAGE…and often the only village that you live in consistently is the one created by the people sitting in the pew next to you. All the other villages you take part in are far more transient and disconnected than you realize.
My village is mostly made up of other pastors and other counselors (my two professions) and the few folks I know well in my neighborhood. In the end, the majority of my ‘village’ is dispersed all over the state (although they are mostly in the East Valley) because I met them through my church.
Thank God for the village that is lifting me up while I make like a drama queen. I know that most of you don’t feel like I’m being a drama queen, but I do…and I love you all the more for not getting tired of my requests for prayer and emotional support.
I love you all and want you to know that my family could not survive without you. You are our hope and our greatest support, and God puts skin on and takes care of us through your hands.
It takes a village…to put skin on just one God and give Him feet and hands to get things done.
Praise God for the village.