On Sickness, Death, and Winter

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This past week was pretty crappy.

Because I like things neat and tidy and to go the way I want them to go, it was a sucker punch to the face to realize, once again, that I’m not in control of the universe.

I’ll start with the less trivial things.

All week, I was wicked sick. The majority of the time was spent the couch in a fetal position, without motivation for anything. My oily hair fanned the back of my sweaty neck while I moaned for some relief from the alternating pain and chilly sensations prickling in my bones. Getting up to use the restroom took an hour of mental preparation, so clearly everything else that is running a household of 4 kids went completely to the wayside.

You’ve probably been there at some point in your life, too. So sick that life is completely set aside and a fog settles over whatever semblance of your existence have left.

I had either true influenza (fever, malaise, chills, body aches, cough, runny nose, headache, and fatigue) or something just like it. I don’t remember having been that sick, for that many days in a row, in a long time.

And then the rest of the fam: also sick. We have an assortment of viruses, pneumonia, croup, ear infections, and bronchitis. If our ailments were ice cream flavors, our house would be a fun place to be right now.

Illness strips us of all the things that make life enjoyable-human touch, community, doing good work, being outside, thinking, eating, and moving; so it always feels like it might be a little foretaste of hell. I’m not exaggerating. All that is desolate and miserable, without any of the light or good or beauty? The opposite of heaven. Hell.

When in the middle of it, it’s hard to imagine what life is like not being sick or believing it’ll ever end. It reminds me of the last month of pregnancy that way. It seems almost impossible that at some point there’ll be recovery and a symptom-free body, full of vigor and hope.

I have renewed empathy for those with chronic pain or disease, and renewed respect for the fact it’s not my own independent resolve that propels me through my days. It’s the fact that I’m youngish, healthy, and my basic needs are almost always met; if any of these were not true, it’d be a different scenario.

Now on the road back to recovery, I’m thankful to be coming out of the temporary, dark tunnel of illness and back to searching for beauty in the world. But my heart is heavy for another, more grave reason.

The serious and sorrowful part of last week was the death of two young fathers in our community. One the dear husband of an acquaintance who was killed in an accident and the other a beloved pastor, husband, and father of 4 that I knew to be a radiant, lovely, engaging, godly man. Pastor Scott lost his battle to an aggressive cancer in just a few weeks, no one would’ve ever guessed his death was pending.

Both illness and death feel gray and heavy, like the clouds that sit on the atmosphere most of the Wisconsin winter, guardians against the light and sun, daring you to hope that winter will be gone at some point soon.

I’m longing for this whole mess on earth to be made right. In the sickness and death, I’m reminded of that more than ever. It’s when things are pretty great, that I forget— I’m numbed and placated by my own strength and resolve.

But this week, in my own minor suffering and the great suffering of others, my longing for Otherworld was remembered.

Winter comes, but winter always goes, too, every season a reminder of our longings. And the sunshine that returns will force its warm tentacles into our bodies and hearts to renew us in the darkness.

Until illness, and death, and winter are no more.