Invictus #3: My head is bloody, but unbowed . . .

First published 6/17/11

I got the call on Tuesday that “Mama” was coming home that very day.  The doctor mentioned it to her on the Friday before, but between the drugs she’s on and her illness in general, I can understand why it didn’t come up in conversation when I saw her later that same day.  Fact is, she was being discharged.  Her radiation therapy had ended (two weeks worth) and the doctor, according to the case manager, felt she had reached her “plateau.” There was no going back and the calls, internet searches, and asking friends to cross-reference their resources yielded deeply discounted medication and free medical equipment.


As a social worker, I’m the first to say that when help is needed, help should be asked for, and finally help should be given.  But professionals are the worst clients in their respective fields.  God’s been leading me to learn to reach out and take people at their word.  I’ve had so many extend prayers, offers of loans, and any help and I’m just humbled at where God is taking me through this experience with my mom.


You see when I look at my mom, I look at me.  We resemble each other (she’s just a few shades lighter).  And for years, I thought that’s where the resemblance ended.  In her illness and in spending one-on-one time with her, I’ve come to realize that we are mirror images of each other.  Don’t get me wrong, where my mother is quiet and accepting–I take no prisoners.  Where she is conservative in her mannerisms, my conservative nature is tempered with a streak of inner rebellion.  But at the core of who we are, we are kindred souls.


Like myself, my mother has learned to just let go and let me take the wheels of this ride.  And I in turn, have released the wheel into God’s hands.  We are both the biggest control freaks you will ever know and we really don’t think that anyone can do it as well as we can.  Ninety-nine percent of the time we’re usually right!  But these days, mom lies in bed now accustomed to nurses probing her, asking personal questions, and being at the mercy of others.  I too like my mom have become to accustomed to the questions.  I’m being asked about her health and having to be transparent with each question is still something I’m getting used to.  I can’t afford to be ‘closed’ because I trust that God will use this as a testimony and opportunity to share God’s hand in all of this.  I too am at the mercy of others.  Bosses and colleagues who are understanding and supportive,  friends (close and distant) who have swooped down like eagles each using their wings to pray, protect, and provide that much needed boost.  But like mom who is left alone at night once I leave from my visit with her, I too am left to deal with this all by myself.  I have a supportive husband, whose held my hands, allowed me to just be, but even a life long partner can’t take you through this.  Only God can.


A line in Henley’s poem “Invictus” (in the title above) brings to mind an image of someone brought low by life’s persistent blows, but not beaten down. There is no denying that the strikes II Corinthians chapter 4 mentions the following: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair . . .”


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