Do not worry if you have built your castles in the air. They are where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.
~Henri David Thoreau
In our last message Tom wrote about worry – especially about its effects when we shoulder our troubles alone. Today I (Michael) want to share a story about worry too.
It’s been an especially worrisome week for my family. To be honest, this has been one of the absolutely most trying weeks of my life. Last Monday my son Matthew was admitted to the hospital. It was thought that he might have had a stroke. At age 24. There was definitely something neurological going on. He had lost considerable mobility, strength and agility on the right side of his body. But after a week of scans and tests, examinations and consultations, it was determined that he had not had a stroke.
But it was determined that he had damage to his spinal cord. It was compressed and that caused the weakness that rendered him unable to walk on his own or to grasp anything with his right hand. His damage was most likely caused by a lifetime of banging and hitting his head and of throwing himself to the ground when he didn’t want to do what we wanted him to do, without regard to what he might hit on the way down – a product of his autism.
So, last night, he had surgery on his compressed spinal column, to decompress it. Matthew tolerated it well and today, as I sit beside his hospital bed to write this, he is resting calmly and peacefully from this challenging, stress-filled week. Of course, only time will show us how much of his ability and mobility will return. But at least now the damage has been repaired, allowing his spinal cord to heal.
My wife Kathy and I are tired, physically weakened, worn. We’ve eaten erratically this week. Sleep has been sporadic and restless. Exercise has been non-existent. We’ve barely seen the out-of-doors. Our minds are overloaded with concern, as they’ve been pushed to process more medical information than we ever thought we’d need to. Nearly everything in our lives has been put on hold. The future is uncertain as we wait to learn how Matthew will ultimately respond to his condition. We’ve at turns been grateful, frustrated, moved, angry, confident and overwhelmed. And we’ve been worried, of course, as any parents would be.
But the one thing we haven’t felt through it all is that we have had to go through it all alone. There is no realistic way that we could. To do this without support, without allowing others to help shoulder the weight, without being able to share about how we are feeling at each turn would be ridiculous. Unhealthy. Detrimental. Dangerous.
At every turn – the difficult ones and the welcomed ones – there have been others beside us, praying for us, under girding us, encouraging us, offering help to us, listening to us, sitting with us, feeding us, and reaching out to us. They have been patient, empathetic, gracious and kind. They have shown respect. They have offered their love.
To our sons Adam and David, their wives Kate and Janelle, to my parents, to our brothers and sisters, to Tom and his family, to the community of caregivers, teachers and friends of Matthew, and to the vast majority of medical professionals who are giving new life to Matthew, we owe profound and deep gratitude.
It is simply their love, this spirit of compassion, this gift of care, that is the answer to blunting the doubt and to melting the worry away.