A close friend of mine recently sent me an article about coping with the grief associated with having a loved one who is sick. In just one page the author said things that summed up what I feel, notably: “Illness and disability is a family affair. The accident or diagnosis that made our family member need care, happened to us as well. It is our accident and our diagnosis just as much as it is theirs. I have a psychosocial form of MS, just as my husband has a clinical one.” (Suzanne Mintz)
It can be hard to say this out loud when I’m not the one who struggles to walk. Dion and my Mom’s physical limitations are obvious in a way that my emotional struggle is not, though our grief over things lost is similar. In some ways Dion and I are both accustomed to the diagnosis of MS that happened in 1997, a disease that has impacted our life together ever since. In other ways we are on a constant grieving journey, one that doesn’t follow the generally accepted stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
As a person of faith, people often ask me if I believe that Dion and my Mom can be healed. The truth is, I do. This is something I have to hold lightly, because as much as I believe it to be possible, it has yet to happen. And I have to believe that though physical healing has not occurred, it is happening in other ways. This doesn’t keep me though from desperately wanting a miracle.
“Denying your grief denies your humanity” says Mintz. I acknowledge that my family’s life is different from what we once imagined it would be. The pain and sorrow associated with illness is tangible, though at the same time it has allowed us an experience of life that is deep, rich and beautiful. There is much that is not easy and quite honestly we’d like a break from the difficult stuff. I am admittedly sad.
I am learning that to cope I need to regularly acknowledge the sadness. As I deal with the waves of grief, I am more able to take a deep breath and carry on. It might seem counter-intuitive, but by dwelling here I am freed to more fully experience all that is good. And there is much good, including a huge community of people who want to make this an even bigger family affair.
The Dale has a staff team of two: me and Joanna Moon. It is now time for that to change. As sweet as the last four years have been with just the two of us, we recognize it is time to grow. Just yesterday a community member knowingly said, “you and Joanna need another person on the floor”. And so it is with excitement and hope that we want to make public our search for a third staff member.
If you are someone who is passionate about developing relationships and fostering a sense of community; is sensitive to the needs of people, in particular those who know marginalization; understands that we all have gifts to give and wounded places that need healing, and can support a unique context like The Dale Ministries, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive the posting before December 31, 2016.
Please note that paid staff positions at The Dale are self-supported via fundraising. If you would like to discuss this model of compensation and explore what building a network of support could look like for you, please let me know.
While The Dale may have a small staff, we are a community of many. Though our roles differ, we have a shared responsibility for this precious place. This announcement is an invitation to join not just me and Joanna, but all of us.
I have recently enjoyed a number of opportunities to share the story of The Dale at events around the city. Every single time I have found myself in conversation with people about what it means that I am both giver and receiver in my community. The belief that we all, regardless of our circumstances, have something to offer is foundational to everything we do at The Dale. Today was no exception.
I sat across from someone in deep distress who took a moment to look right at me and acknowledge that he sees my own pain too. It has been in our mutual sharing that we have earned one another’s trust. While our burdens are very different, we recognize that the heaviness of the load is similar. I believe this makes both of us feel less alone.
Feeling slightly defeated by an exchange with someone who was very angry, I turned to re-enter the drop-in. An older man who I hardly know walked right up to me and proceeded to offer what I can only describe as a blessing. He gave thanks for the lunch, encouraged me to know that Mondays matter, described the good things he sees in me and prayed that I might know deep happiness. To those of you who know me, it will come as no surprise that I welled up with tears and choked out a thank you.
I received a poem from someone and a piece of chocolate from another. Though I had no expectation of being repaid, I got handed a crumpled $5 bill. I was firmly hugged by two women whose mantra to me was, “Shalom. We desire peace for you”. Busily connecting with people in the drop-in, I stopped to take in the sheer number of volunteers making everything in the kitchen happen and felt overwhelmed with gratitude.
Mohammed, a recent addition to the community, showed up to help before we were even open: a full hour early. Every time he finished a task, he asked for another. He has a great laugh and often remarks that Joanna and I are “funny” (I’m not certain if this is because he likes our jokes or thinks we’re weird. Either way, he makes us smile). Ready to go home, Mohammed shook my hand and assured me he’d show up to tomorrow’s drop-in early too. “I help you and you help me. That’s how we do this”.