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How Sickness Changes Everything - Chronically Whole
How Sickness Changes Everything

How Sickness Changes Everything

May 9, 2016 | Posted in: Chronic illness and relationships, Chronic Life, Parenting and Chronic Illness

I’m not sure where the memory crawled out from, where it’s been hiding all of this time or why it resurfaced at all.

It was the afternoon of my brother’s death. His body gone for hours now, ladies from the church busied themselves with cleaning, and my siblings sat at the kitchen table eating a meal someone had brought. Fried chicken. Which made my stomach turn. Had it occurred to them they were eating my brother’s favorite food on the day he died, without him?

I’d sauntered into my room, cordless phone in hand with the intention of marking off the next name on my “call and inform of Matt’s death” list when the phone rang.


“Yes, Can I speak with Matt S. please?”

“No, no you can’t.”

The male voice on the other end of the line gets snarky, indignant. I can almost hear him snarling and smirking.

“And why can’t I?”

“Because he’s dead, that’s why.”

Now, the voice is making notes, moving the file from one pile to another.

“Well, who’s handling his estate, covering his debt?

And then I confess, a gruesome monster with fangs crawled out of me and began to scream at the man. The screaming filled the somber house, and my mom came running. The strange thing was, she didn’t ask what was wrong. She didn’t take the phone from me. She pulled me to her. And I began sobbing and screaming into my Mother’s stomach. I dropped the phone. My mom wrapped her arms around me.

I’m grown(ish) now, and I have a better understanding of how these things work. Now I know, the snarky man on the phone that day was just a guy sitting in a grey, fabric-covered cubicle somewhere doing his job. I was just the phone call that raised his “freak-out” ratio for the week. And while it’s probably bad etiquette to scream relentlessly at debt collectors, that’s not something my mom ever mentioned to me.

On the day set aside to honor our mothers, these are the thoughts that thrust themselves to the forefront of my mind. Me, sobbing into my mother’s stomach on the day my brother died. And me receiving no rebuke. I will always love her for the fact she heard my cries and came running.

How Sickness Changes Everything

Last night, I stood in the space between the wall and the sink and pestered my husband while he ironed his shirt for work today. (He likes to create order.)

I was crowdsourcing, seemingly in over my head in parenting teens.

“But is this just normal teenage stuff you let slide or is it something that needs coaching? I didn’t have this life. “

I explained that by sixteen I was working as a manager at a clothing store and taking care of my siblings while my mom worked. I no longer went to school. I received a GED. I never went to prom. I didn’t have a high school graduation. By seventeen, I was a college student, by eighteen I was married. And by twenty-one, I had Hayden.

Ryan made sad faces as I recounted these things. It’s not like he didn’t already know them. And certainly not like he didn’t already know this, but I reminded him, anyway.

Sickness changes everything.”

It changes your teenage years and the reasons you honor your mom. It changes your body, your finances, your relationships and expectations of “special days.”

Many of those changes are especially painful. But I think the laying down of expectations can be particularly freeing. It’s a gift, the living in the moment. The ability to bend with things as they come, to let go of your own idea of “perfect” and learn a new one, to let life and love surprise you.

Maybe your “Mother’s Day” was rough. Maybe like me you hit a brick wall physically. Maybe you felt like you were failing as a parent. Maybe you watched “perfect Mother’s Day” after “perfect Mother’s Day” on Facebook from your bed, and you felt like a failure. Can I remind you that you’re doing a much better job than you think you are? Can I also remind you that sickness changes everything? Our “normal” and their “normal” are apples and oranges. Let’s not compare them. It will only bring disappointment. Instead, let’s focus on the good. Let’s allow life and love to surprise us. Let’s lay down expectations and be freed to live in the moment. If yesterday was disappointing, let’s try again today.

Yes, sickness changes everything. But we can choose joy in anything Click To Tweet



Photos courtesy of Hannah Stucky

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  1. Karen Stell
    May 12, 2016

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    That is exactly how my Mother’s Day went. We had family in from out of town who were attending church, but the graduation the day before made me hurt too much to leave my bed on Sunday. I felt like a failure, like I let everyone down. I let myself feel that way. I’m pretty sure no one was devastated by my absence. I can only do what I can do. At least I got to see family the day before, and got to see my daughter walk across stage. I won’t remember this Mother’s Day, but I will always hold that memory in my heart.

  2. Stacey Philpot
    May 12, 2016

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    I totally understand, Karen! I wanted to go to church on Sunday. It’s the only thing I wanted. But I couldn’t make my body do it. And I felt like a failure. And then I had to do some attitude adjusting. Love to you today!

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