Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Holy Empathy!

So when I got my awesome amazing job at St. Mark's the first thing Jarm asked me to do (actually before I knew I even had the job) was to take this strength's finder's test.  Whoa, me, a test?  I totally FREAK when I hear the word test.  I mean, FREAK!  DMV be warned, I am amazed I have a license because I seriously get so freaked out about having to take a test.  Anyway, imagine how freaked out I was about a test for a potential job.  I take the test freakishly and end up with my results.  One of my strengths/curses is empathy.  Webster defines empathy as "the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner ; also : the capacity for this."  Yep, I passed that test.  This explains why my heart aches for people so much and hopefully explains why I can so easily tear up about events or situations.  

Right now, my parents are in SC with my grandmother.  Some of you know that my family defines dysfunctional in all caps, look for our picture in your dictionary.  Probably one of the reasons I put my boys on top of just about everything in my life (after God and Jim).  I don't want them writing about having a dysfunctional family in their blog in a few years! :) Here's where my heartwrenching empathy enters today.  I can most likely count on my extremities the number of times I remember having seen my grandmother in my 31 years of living.  In the past two years she's been living in an assisted living home.  We received a call two years ago that she had been given three months to live due to liver disease.  We all went down there to essentially say our goodbyes.  That was two years ago.  I made a conscious effort to call my grandmother every Wednesday on my way home from work.  When you don't have a relationship with someone, that's challenging. We would talk about the weather, the boys and how she was feeling.  After about a year of calling, she either stopped answering or was asleep or just not there.  I'll shamefully admit that I stopped calling weekly.  What was the point in trying to establish a relationship after 30 years?  Now here we are to today when I got the call from my mom that Grandma was in a coma and to not get worked up about it until she got down there and figured everything out.  Alrighty then.  So I waited until Daddy called me tonight.  She's out of the coma, but is unresponsive and is making sounds constantly.  She's now in Hospice care at a Hospice Hospital.  My mom got on the phone and she is heartbroken.  My mom and I have not had a great relationship for the past few months, but for some reason I am the daughter she reached out to today.  Does she know about my empathy curse?  She just stabbed it.  I can hear the pain in my mom's voice and it just about kills me to not jump in the car and drive to SC to be with her despite the lack of relationship I have with my mom or my grandmother.  My heart aches for my dad who is there trying to support my mom in her suffering while I bombard him with questions about my grandmother's care he can't answer.  I want to fix everything for everyone and I can't and my heart physically hurts.  I hurt because I long for a relationship with my grandmother like other people have and I long for relationship with my mom and a relationship for my boys to have with her.  I pray that God will use this hurt for good.  That He will allow my sisters and me to be courageous enough to speak up and ask for a better relationship, if not for us, for our children.  I know God uses our hurts for His good.  

My empathy is overwhelming at times and right now it has taken over.  It's even hard to pray when this happens and that's exactly what I should be doing!  There are so many of my friends and family who are hurting right now.  I'll ask if you're reading this to please pray for these people:

Sarah Browder-my grandmother, may God take her home soon to help her find peace
Frances Tucker-amazing grandmother to my niece and nephew courageously battling cancer again
Julia Scavo-sweet girl with Wilms tumor just beginning chemo
Jim Russell-cancer is shrinking (met his wife through SPF!)
Caroline Brower-pneumonia after lots of other infections
John Clark-grandmother passed away
Andy Lamb-MRI scheduled for tomorrow for back pain, PTL he returned safely from mission trip overseas

My list could go on, but these are situations that are happening right now.  I think I'll keep prayer requests on here.  It always helps to know you're praying, too!

On a much lighter note-Brady is changing his name to "SOUP."  If you ask him something and he doesn't know the answer or he wants to be silly his response is soup.  So in the spirit of silliness, I asked him if he wanted to change his name to Soup and he said yes.  That little bugger is the funniest thing, if you're in need of a laugh, stop by.  You're guaranteed one with him.  He's also renamed his knees "freckles."  This is all my fault because he has the cutest freckles on his knees that I always ask him what they are and he says freckles so cutely.  I guess he thought I was calling his knees freckles.  He's got adorable freckles that spring up on his nose, too!  What a cutie!  We've got some work to do with that!! :)  

I was brought to tears last week by a shoe box.  I got to work last Monday and found a shoe box from an amazing couple on my desk.  Inside were a pair of cleats for Nathan.  I had told her Nathan's soccer story and she is so awesome (you wouldn't believe how awesome this couple is, really, unbelievably awesome) she bought him cleats.  I don't know why we didn't-ignorance, doubt, cheapskates?  I don't know, but if anyone had been at my house when I came home from work to go to Nathan's soccer game Monday night you would have bought him cleats (or clunks as he first called them), too.  My child is precious to me.  Here's his story that prompted the gift of cleats:

Coming home from Nathan's third soccer game Nathan asked us if he could get some of those shoes like some of the other kids were wearing.  Hmm, what a blow.  We knew it was coming at some point.  Nathan and Brady and Jim have Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (http://sp-foundation.org/).  This makes moving from their hips down a bit different from the rest of us.  In talking with his physical therapist, we decided this season (his first) we would keep his AFOs (leg braces) on and wear his normal shoes that go with them.  I have to tell you that when he was sitting on the bench for some of the first game, one of his teammates looked at his AFOs and said, "I need some shinguards like those."  Cool!  Of course, they're only four!  Four year old soccer is a bunch of kids running after the ball maybe towards the net, maybe not.  Nathan was smiling the entire time he was on the field, even though he was often way behind his teammates or on the ground.  It was fun to watch.  Back to his question.  

Me: "Well, Nathan, you only have a few more games left.  How about next season we get you some?"
N: "I think I wouldn't fall as much if I had them, the other kids don't fall as much."
OUCH!  Yep, folks, my heart split in two.  I am so thankful to have been in the front seat where he wasn't watching me!  
Jim: "Cleats are hard to run in buddy, even I have a hard time in them.  Next season okay, then it won't be as hard because you'll be older and you won't fall as much."
Hmm, not the answer I would have gone after, but okay.  It appeased him.  

Next game, Saturday morning, I'm dressing him.  
N: "Mom, do you think we have time before the game to go to the store to get some of those other shoes?  You know, the ones like the other kids?"
Me: "Honestly buddy, you know we are almost never on time for anything and today is picture day.  So no,  we don't have time."
N: "Okay."
Knife inserted into heart and twisted just a bit more.

Then Monday I get to work to find a box with brand new cleats in his size that fit perfectly with his AFOs, a rare feat, trust me!!  That in itself is next to impossible.  I am so blessed and my child was so happy.  He was practically floating on the field.  Did he fall any more or any less?  Just about the same.  Did it matter?  No, it was priceless for him to feel normal.  Why didn't we think to do that?  When did he start growing up and realizing these things?  It will be way too soon that he'll start realizing he doesn't walk like others and he doesn't run as fast and that the ground meets his face more than others.  I want to keep his innocence as long as I can.  But I know I can't.  THAT breaks my heart.  Yet I know his heart and I know who God is making him to be and I'm so thankful for that.  I also know that we are blessed with two incredible little men God has loaned to us for a while.  I only pray He guides me along the way, it's been awesome so far!

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