Friday, February 29, 2008

You, me... and we

I realize that it's been awhile since I posted any updates on the blog. I have been writing, just not online. Like many people in northern climes, I struggle through February. Perhaps it, not April, is the cruellest month. My mother often wondered if she suffered from SAD - quite possible, given her predisposition to mild depression. Thankfully (at least to my mind) this has been a bright snowy white winter for the most part, banishing the grey, damp weather that passes as an excuse for winter in these parts.

It's been a difficult month - probably only in part because of the winter blues. The mother of a dear friend of mine passed away recently after a long struggle with Parkinson's. I sat with her several afternoons in the week before her mom died, keeping her company, making sure she got out for a walk in the fresh air and a regular bite to eat. We talked, I knit, she held her mom's hand, sometimes we just sat quietly together. Looking on her mother sleeping, I remembered many tender, intimate hours spent with my own beloved mom in a similar setting.

It was an honour to be among the close circle that supported my friend during the precious waning days of her mother-daughter time. To quote a wise and simple line from Lars and the Real Girl "That's what people do." If we're lucky, we feel an empathy for those around us who are in pain and we do what we can to help them through. It's part of being human and, hopefully, in turn makes us ever more human.

Marking the first ever International Rare Disease Day, tonight's episode of The Agenda on TVO focussed on rare diseases and how people deal with everything that comes with them. One of the guests was Alison Agar, born with Polycystic Kidney Disease and a three-time kidney transplant survivor (obviously that caught my interest). Another of the other guests was Ian Brown who wrote so very eloquently and honestly about life with his son Walker in a series of articles, soon to be expanded on and published as a book. Each of the guests spoke not only of the medical condition but of how it impacted on everything in the family's life and beyond.

A chronic illness becomes second nature, a lifestyle - albeit not one of choice. Illness - rare or not - never afflicts just the person with the condition. Like a pebble into a pool, it's effects radiate outwards to spouse, children, parents, friends, workplace, school, and so on, and so on. Illness is a "we" diagnosis, not an "I". Nonetheless, it often creates families where no blood ties exist even while we struggle to maintain the bare bones of a semblance of normalcy in the face of seemingly hopeless chaos. That's one of the few blessings of chronic illness... it can make us more human all the while robbing us of our physical strength and even our dignity.

I seem to have rambled on about lots of disparate topics but I guess at the core everything relates to being able to reach out, to help another may help to ease the weight of our own burdens, to feel for one another, to recognize the "we" in each other, no matter what that other face looks like.

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