This past week has been a trying one in the Ferris household. Sickness rolled in like a thick fog last Sunday morning and booked an extended stay package through Friday. By the end of the week, this is how I felt:
And hell it was. It wasn’t enough for one kid to get sick, that would be a minor inconvenience, but entirely manageable. No, all three got the stomach flu. By the end of the week, we lost count of how many trips to the bathroom we took, the loads of laundry done, and the hours spent massaging tired heads.
On a side note, to the parents of multiple kids who happen to have one get sick: Do you ever feel like you’re in a Gulf state that’s going to be hit by an impending hurricane? It’s like Tropical Storm “Upper Respiratory Infection” decides to spin up; you might get a few shingles blown off your roof, but you know you’ll survive, albeit a little worse for wear. But, since you decided to fulfill the divine command to “Be fruitful and multiply” and due to the joys of living in proximity, you know what’s coming. The middle child that’s happily dancing around the living room and eating everything in the fridge? Enjoy the next 48 hours, because they. Won’t. Last. By the time your done, a category 5 norovirus named “Darla” will have dropped a proverbial bomb on your home and you’re contemplating moving to a new state. I digress…
While the last week definitely took it’s toll on us mentally and physically, it’s the emotional aspect that was probably the most painful. Everyone knows firsthand the experience of feeling helpless while a loved one experiences an agonizing situation. Maybe your friend is trying to survive a sickness that’s ravaging her body, or a family member is in an uncomfortable situation due to poor choices that he or she has made. For many of us, our first instinct is to want to take action: We want to know how we can help. We want to give advice or bake a casserole. However, sometimes, our best intentions (and recipes) are not enough.
Amber and I learned this lesson the hard way this past week. Our kids were not sick enough to require hospitalization, nor did they have an infection that could be treated with a round of antibiotics. Outside of keeping them semi-comfortable, cuddling them, praying for them, and keeping them hydrated, there was nothing we could do to change the situation that they were in. It was one to be endured, not removed.
One to be endured, but not removed…maybe that’s the mindset we need to start incorporating into our lives. For our hurting loved ones, is it conceivable that rather than our solutions, unsolicited advice, and fixes, they want us? That they crave our presence over our proposals? As painful as it was to see my kids miserable this weekend, there is a sacred honor in holding my daughter’s hair back 2:47am as she hunches over a toilet or in cradling my seven year old son in my arms, praying for him, and letting him know that he will be all right. In their moments of pain, they didn’t need my wife’s and my solutions. “Well, you know, you really need to try and drink some water…” or “Gee, you’d probably feel better if you went to sleep!” No, they needed us. They wanted us.
The unfortunate reality is that while on this side of life, we’ll always have hell; The plague will take up residence in our houses. Darla will make landfall, leaving a trail of destruction in her wake. It’s inevitable. That said, let us learn to be people who offer more than advice and casseroles. Let us be people who know the value of a taking that late night phone call, to be that shoulder to cry on, and to be someone’s steady presence in the midst of the storm.