Sickness, Death, and Love

Almost everybody I know has dealt with or is dealing with some level of sickness or death in their lives. If you’re human and you haven’t dealt with some measure of illness, or even death, I think THAT’S when you can count yourself among the richest 1% in the world. And that’s ok. Nothing to feel guilty about. Celebrate it, enjoy it, and offer up some big gratitude.

But for the rest of us, the 99%, here’s what I’ve noticed.

Almost 9 years ago when my dad had his massive stroke, many people came to wish us well and offer prayers and hope. So many friends and family members sharing phrases like, “it will be ok,” and “he’ll be fine.” But there was one – one person who dared to say something different.

I’ll never forget it. We were standing in the hallway outside the family room of the ICU almost in a reception line as a few friends were arriving, when Danny walked up to me. He put his hands on my shoulders, looked me straight in the eye and said, “This sucks.”

In that singular moment, I felt all the tension in my back and shoulders release, and I felt myself start to laugh a nervous laugh.

“Dare I agree with him?”

He hugged me tightly, and I felt like I would collapse since I no longer had tension holding me up.

“It just sucks. I’m so sorry,” he continued as he pulled back and looked me in the eye again.

By now, tears were welling up in my lower lids, and I realized I TOTALLY agreed with him.

“Thank you.” (hug) “Oh – THANK YOU!! You’re right. It sucks. It sucks big time, and it hurts, and it sucks.”

He smiled at me and didn’t offer the traditional phrases of comfort and condolence that many would interject at this point. Instead, he simply said, “Yeah,” and allowed me to have my peace, my reality, my truth.

And that was it. That one moment changed the way I look at life, death, and illness. More to the point, it changed the way I offer support to those around me who are experiencing challenging times. Yes, I still offer words of comfort and hope, but not to the exclusion of validating the sucky-ness of the situation. Nor to the point of negating the person’s experience.

The thing is, illness sucks. Death sucks for those left behind. So many books and teachers out there want us to focus on hope and find the positive in the situation, almost to the exclusion of the difficulty.

I’m a believer in how our thoughts change and create our lives. I know this to be true. I believe in finding the positive and living from that place. And yes, the positive is always there, can always be found, and helps us through the darker moments… but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t ALSO suck to live through it. Sometimes it just sucks. It’s hard, and it hurts. And that’s ok.

It means you knew Love.

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