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Meeting Others In Their Pain - Chronically Whole

Meeting Others In Their Pain

April 11, 2016 | Posted in: Chronic illness and relationships, chronic illness; support, Grief, Parenting and Chronic Illness, Relationships

Today, the five of us sat at the table, eating lunch and talking about death. Sometimes laughing and at other times in tenuous, heavy tones— we talked about what we’d want our funerals to look like and how we felt about the ones we’d been to. I’m not sure how the conversation led us to this place, but I’m also not sorry it did. At some point, in some way, death will touch us all. It’s a part of life and one I want my big kids to feel comfortable talking to us about, one I want my little one to understand isn’t reversible in the way she plays like it is with her toys.


My oldest said he’d want us to laugh at his funeral and throw water balloons at the coffin. My husband says he’d like it if I’d drive his body around town with a sign on the hearse warning, “You could be next.” (He’s serious.) My stepdaughter notes that people always look so strange at funerals, nothing like they did in real life. I tell her I’ve always found the emptiness jarring-the obvious change now that this container which once housed my loved one is so clearly no longer occupied. What I don’t tell any of them is: I won’t be found laughing at a single one of their funerals, no matter what funny stories are told. I won’t be driving anyone around town, and certainly no water balloons will be thrown. Maybe the container is empty, but to me, it will always be a sacred container. Nor do I mention that even today, right this moment, there are people grieving loved ones. There are people  stepping into the first days of a “new normal” they never wanted and I’ll be whispering quiet prayers for these people who’s names I don’t know but whose journeys weigh on my heart throughout the afternoon.

Maybe it’s because I know the journey.


Yesterday, I went to sleep with a heavy heart while I thought of a friend with Lyme disease. I wondered how I could help her more. I remembered my brief days in a wheelchair, how painful, isolating—just plain hard they were. And how hers just kept stretching on and on. I thought about how hard it is to parent, to love the way you want to when you’re sick. And she’s a single mom. I wondered if her friends realized just how much courage it must take her to wake up and fight the same battles day after day. Were they giving her the support she needed?

Maybe it’s because I know the journey.


And the day before that, it was a little old lady at the cancer center. Ravaged by the chemotherapy and living alone, I conversed with myself internally. “Will she think I’m a creeper if I offer to come by and check on her? Is it invasive if I ask her if she’s okay?” I knew my husband wouldn’t let me back in the house if I told him I’d volunteered our home to a woman I’d just met but at least, I know she has this creeper’s number to call if she needs anything.

Maybe it’s because I know the journey.





Maybe by now, you’re wondering what the point is of all these strange, seemingly disconnected stories.


Please hear me.


Everywhere around you, people are far sicker than you know. Click To Tweet Maybe it’s because they look “great” when you see them. (which, now that you think about it isn’t all that often.) Can I tell you they look “great” because you are seeing them on the days they are well enough to be seen? There is a reason so many illnesses are called “invisible.” It’s because so often they can’t be seen on the outside and also because over time the affected become seemingly invisible themselves.


Can I tell you, that today, all around you—people are hurting and grieving? They are stepping into a “new normal” they never wanted, and it’s lonely and scary, and it hurts. All around you, people are fighting, and they need you. They need your love and support. They need your companionship and your encouragement. They need you to fight with them and for them. They need to know they aren’t invisible.


What I’m asking of you is simple, but it isn’t easy. I’m asking that you keep your eyes, your ears, and your hearts open to these people. Be on the lookout. Be willing to reach out. Be willing to meet them in their pain.

Maybe it will be because you know the journey.





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  1. Sarah
    April 12, 2016

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    Thank you for the reminder to keep my eyes and soul alert for the suffering of other people. Out of your suffering you have cultivated such amazing empathy.

  2. Stacey Philpot
    April 18, 2016

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    Thanks for stopping by, Sarah!

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