June 21, 2013
As I begin the brave task of telling the honest story about the effect of mental illness on the lives of my family members, I am rooting through journals and writings. I came across this from ten years ago.
We had another long vigil at the hospital last night and my children and I have slept late this morning, piled together in the big bed in the master bedroom, praying that the phone will not ring. We tumble out of bed just before noon and take our late breakfast of scrambled eggs and bacon to the back deck. There we discover that wild violets have grown up in the backyard, tiny stars of purple against the green crabgrass. I wonder that they have survived the harsh winter, the ice and the frost of neglect. And yet they have grown, struggling to push themselves out of the hard earth towards the warm spring sun. Despite last summer’s drought and the sub-zero temperatures of winter, they have survived to grace our backyard with their royal beauty.
They remind me, I tell my son and daughter, of these past five weeks that their father has lain in a hospital bed, the victim of a horrendous car accident. Day after day, his body has struggled to heal from massive trauma and subsequent surgeries, beset with complications and infections. But then, everything reminds me of it. While Ron’s ongoing hospitalization has become the focus of our lives, we somehow manage to struggle on, going to work and school, doing laundry and making meals, sharing moments of hope. Just last night as we sat in the waiting room of the trauma ward awaiting word on Ron’s emergency surgery, I said to the two offspring that were with me, “You know, we’re a tough family. It takes a lot to knock us down.”
“We take a lickin’ and keep in tickin’.” my youngest quipped and we all laughed.
But there is a deeper truth to Allen’s words. We have taken a beating. No one could argue that. Ron’s ongoing illness has thrown obstacles and burdens our way that we could never have imagined. My daughter and I have learned to change the oil in the cars and install the storm windows. Allen’s older brother Dennis has filled in the gap left by his father’s absence at soccer games. We are often tired and frightened. We sometimes question God. But we are not beaten. We have struggled to survive, to push our heads above the surface of our circumstances and seek the sun.
Sipping the tea my daughter has brewed in my grandmother’s china pot, I wonder if it would it be too melodramatic to compare us to these wild violets in the backyard. The Book of Matthew tells us to “Behold the fields in all their glory; even King Solomon was not arrayed as one of these.” I breathe deeply on this April morning, recognizing the purple majesty of these wild flowers as a gift from God, a miracle of the cycle of seasons and a reminder of Jesus’ resurrection. To all things there is a season. That these violets have survived is a testimony to God’s mercy.
Our family has survived. Not because we have been able to ignore our situation or “rise above” our circumstances but because, even in the dark, dankness of tragedy and despair, we felt the warm love of God the Father. Often the love came in the form of meals left on our porch or money tucked into my pocket after Sunday services. Sometimes the love came from my sixth grade students and the cards and letters they sent to Ron on a weekly basis. Sometimes God’s love surrounded us during the long hospital vigils as Ron’s life teetered precariously. And now and then the love came from small, almost insignificant treasures such as these wild violets.
We peek our heads up, perhaps tentatively at first, and then, secure in our safety, warmed by the sun, content in God’s love, we grow.
I take a final sip of tea. I will need to call the hospital in a few moments and see how Ron has fared during the night. There are other calls to make, other people also waiting to hear. The dark purple violets scattered against the grass have, like us, survived.
No matter what happens, I think, we’re going to be all right.