What Loving the Chronically Ill Has Taught Me
September 29, 2016 | Posted in: Chronic illness and relationships
My experience with doctors and hospitals has been limited to childbirth and broken fingers, literally. So when you talk medical jargon, insurance terms, and chronic illness, I understand nothing! But just a few short years ago, I was introduced to an amazing lady. Unbeknownst to me she was in the beginning stages of being diagnosed with “chronic illness” and about the same time, my then nineteen-year-old daughter began a series of hospital and doctor visits that would forever change her life and mine. I still don’t understand most medical jargon. I still don’t understand most insurance decisions. And I definitely don’t understand chronic illness.
However, I have learned to be understanding and to value that which can be given. And more importantly, I have tried to take these lessons of understanding to all my relationships. My friend suffers from more terms and words than I can explain, but what it means for me is that she usually can’t talk on the phone; she will text when she can. Two minutes or two days; it is when she can. Why is that ok for her, but not the single mom down the street? When we schedule a coffee date, I know there is always a great possibility that she will cancel; at the last minute. Why is that ok for her, but not for the stay at home mom with three kids? I often try to take dinner to her family. Why don’t I do that for the neighbors who both work? My daughter can treat her body the exact same way and some days are just good days and some days are just bad days. Her ability to function is not a reflection of her desire to function or participate and it is certainly not a reflection of her feelings for me. Why can’t I apply that understanding to the co-worker?
I’ve had to reset my expectations for those in my life suffering from physical/chronic illness and this has caused me to review all my relationships. Are they meeting my expectations or do I need to reset my expectations? Click To Tweet Do I understand a reply on their time frame or am I impatient? Do I feel disrespected when my coffee date is missed or do I understand that something important came up? Am I offended and harbor bitterness or am I quick to forgive and understand?
With so much hate, jealousy and envy in the world, what would it look like if we treated everyone as they were chronically ill? What if we decided to accept what others could give us and understand that they are giving all they can give and sometimes more? What if we decided to cherish the nuggets of time that we get and understand the price they paid for time spent with us? What if we valued the conversation when it’s available and made sure each person feels valued? Click To TweetWhat if we looked for ways to help with the day to day living so they could enjoy those special moments? What if we looked for practical ways to bless people even if they are physically capable? What if we loved each child and made each person feel special in spite of what they can or can’t do (for us)?
Clearly, I don’t succeed in all these situations, and I certainly don’t enjoy watching those I love physically suffer, but I am grateful for the valuable lesson of understanding that they have taught me and I pray that I love others more fully because of my love for them. They don’t need me to understand the medical jargon or the insurance benefits, but I am grateful that they continue to allow me to learn how to be understanding and that part of their legacy is that I treat others better simply by understanding!
Jacki Farley has had chronic illness brought into her life through her daughter and dear friend. Navigating the waters as a supporter/encourager and learning how to best support those you love is so tricky when each day seems a little bit different. With no medical background, she relies on her faith in Jesus to help her provide the best support she can. Some days that is emotional. Some days physical. And some days spiritual. Being a listener and an encourager are key elements. What an honor to have the opportunity to love on those chronically ill.