Friday, May 17, 2013

Stroke Lessons

Patience. Tolerance. Understanding. Empathy. Compassion. I have never quite felt the need for these qualities more than I have needed them throughout these last four weeks.

Before the sun was up one morning my telephone rang and my dad was on the other end of the line. "Can you come over?" he asked. There was something in his voice that I'm not used to hearing. Fear. A bit of fear had crept into my father's voice. "I'm on my way."

My mother suffered a minor stroke. Stroke. Stroke. Stroke. My mom suffered a minor stroke. I remember when the doctor said "stroke" my father and I just looked at each other. "She had a stroke?" Yes. That word is still sinking in four weeks later.

Emotions. Exhaustion. Confusion. Worry. I have never quite felt the draining power of these qualities more than I have throughout these last four weeks.

We have a large, complicated, beautiful family. My mom carried six children and then, when her sister passed away and her brother-in-law followed a year and a half later, my folks took in two of their eight children.  So, what we have is my dad dealing with this change in his wife of 58 years and eight children with thoughts and ideas and feelings coursing through their minds.  How do we deal with this? How do we deal with each other?

My mom loves. She loves her husband. She loves her children. She loves her friends. She loves the staff who helped her at the hospital. She would learn a person's name even if they were doing just one test on her. She hugged her therapists. She exchanged addresses with her roommate. The therapists told her that they wanted her to come back and walk down the hall to see them all when she gets stronger. She loves.

All you need to do in a circumstance like this is to remember that when a woman loves the way my mom loves it is only natural that people will love her back. And when a woman you love suffers a stroke it shakes you -- maybe a little, maybe a lot -- but, it shakes you.  When you are shaken it is so important to have patience, tolerance, understanding, empathy, and compassion.

That was what I needed to do while my mom was in the hospital.  When something would happen I would try to remember this.  When someone would suggest something or ask something or do something, I reminded myself that it came from love.  That helped me to respond in a kind and loving way, I hope.

I tend to be a little quieter and slower in my reactions. I wasn't always like this, but over the years I've come to realize that if I have the ability to let something soak into me a bit before I respond that the outcome is generally more positive. Everyone's emotions were raw. Everyone was exhuasted. Everyone was confused. Everyone was worried. And that is precisely why I needed patience, tolerance, understanding, empathy, and compassion.

I don't know how many times I heard someone say, "Don't they know better?" or "They should have known..."  Why? Why do we expect people to know certain things? Why do we assume that people know the "right" thing to do or the "right" thing to say?  Not everyone does know better.  Because of this, it is so important to try to talk to people with kindness and love. Give them the benefit of the doubt and trust that they are coming from a good place of wanting to help and wanting to make things better. 

People have different ideas about how to handle situations. Sometimes a different idea is just that. Different. Sometimes there is a right way and a wrong way.  Sometimes there is a better way and a not-so-great way.  Sometimes there is just a different way.  Stop.  Listen to each other.  Does something have to be done "your" way?  Let's talk about it.  Let's hear each other.  Let's remember that we are all coming from a place of love and concern.  Be open. 

We all want the best for my mom and we are all going through so many emotions.  Because people react differently to stress it is so very important to remember that everyone is hurting and coming from a place of great love for this woman.

When you give someone the benefit of the doubt it is very freeing.  Why do I do and say the things I say during this difficult time?  Because I love my mom.  Why do I think others do and say the things they do and say?  Out of love for my mom.  So, if that is the case, we should approach each other knowing that we all want the best for her, want to do the best, want to say the best things.  We may not agree with everything, but when you know someone is coming from a place of love doesn't that change the way you interact with them?

These four weeks have been challenging for so many reasons.  Yet these four weeks have brought many blessings as well.  One of these blessings has been bringing into focus the importance of how we interact with people, whether it is just for a moment, a day, or a lifetime.  This part of my journey, the journey of my mom's recovery, is just beginning. We still have a long way to go. I hope it is a time of drawing our family together and strengthening our bonds.

I have never felt the power of these qualities more than I have these last four weeks and so I tell myself: Be patient.  Be tolerant.  Be understanding.  Be empathetic.  Be compassionate. 

"Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And over all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony."  Colossians 3:12-13