Monday, December 13, 2010
The last time I wrote was back at the end of October. As I was getting on one of our green horses, she reared up and bolted. The hard pommel of the western saddle cracked me under the chin. It snapped my head back and I tumbled off the rear of the horse. The hooves were frightfully near. The gravel road came up hard on my elbow and back. I was quite surprised and a little peeved by the whole thing. The horse roared around like an idiot for a while. When she settled down, I gathered her up. My dad always taught me that if you are thrown from a horse you need to get right back up. And I always have.
With the reins gathered in my left hand, I put my left foot in the stirrup. The mare stood quiet and calm. As I threw my right leg over her rump, she bolted again. I had no chance to hang on and was immediately in the air and then hard on the ground. At least this time I landed on the grass and did not hit my head. I was so mad! I was also confused. I did not know why the horse threw me. And I felt a little scared. Ok, more than a little. But I evaluated my body and felt shaken and banged, but otherwise intact. To be thrown twice was a real blow to my confidence as a rider. I later found out that I had the wrong type of bridle for that horse and that I had the wrong horse! The one that threw me had never been ridden.
The next day I was very sleepy and lethargic so we went to the ER. Unfortunately, it was six months to the day that dad died on the way to that same emergency room. As I walked into the ER I surreally remembered that awful day. I walked through the same hallway in which my mother in response to my desperate question, "Where is dad?", said quietly, "He is dead." I walked past the room where his corpse had laid on the gurney looking so unlike my living father. I walked past the room where we gathered and cried and made telephone calls. How dreadful to be back in that same place six months to the day.
They determined that I had a concussion. We left feeling emotionally battered by the memory of dad's death and I felt dazed and somewhat confused by the concussion. The days ahead were difficult. It was hard to think clearly. If I was in a conversation, a thought would come but then it was an effort to make my lips speak the words. It was scary. The thought came, "What if this continues?" But after two weeks I got much better to my and all our relief. And after three weeks I was completely well.
But the whole experience left me feeling very vulnerable. I was no match for that powerful young horse as she chose to toss me onto the ground. The shaking my brain took left me weak, dizzy, physically clumsy, and slow thinking. For two weeks I really could not do anything. I'd sleep or sit and read or watch tv.
During those weeks I thought a lot about my dad's death. I think because I was forced to be inactive I was forced to sit with my feelings. I had a hard time for several weeks as the weight of my loss just seemed to hold me down. As though my bones were too heavy to move. I felt grief, but I could not cry. I wanted to feel the relief of tears, and yet none would come. Have any of you experienced that nature of mourning?
In spite of my training and experience, I found it very hard to give myself permission to feel affected by my father's death. Do you know what I mean? I would say harshly to myself, "Why are you so sad? People lose loved ones all the time and they get on fine." The ironic thing is that I would never say that to anyone else. I would encourage them to accept their feelings and feel what they feel. Debbie fought my unhealthy thinking. She would counter me saying loving things like, "It is your father that died. Of course you are sad. You have every right to be sad." She helped me to accept my pain filled feelings.
I read some books in those weeks of forced inactivity that were helpful in my grief. Two of the best were written by Philip Yancey. The first is "Where is God when it Hurts?", and the second is "Disappointed with God." They helped me to wrestle with my own pain and loss. I am finding that the whole grieving experience is much more confusing and painful than I had expected.
Kenneth Hauk, the founder of Stephen Ministries writes, "Be patient with yourself. Treat yourself as though you were in intensive care. It takes time to heal. Don't let anyone rush you and don't rush yourself. Give yourself time and let yourself grieve." How true his words are.
Our entire family was together in the farm house for Thanksgiving. It was wonderful and chaotic and healing and a little bit crazy as twenty people from all over the country lived together for three days. Debbie oversaw the meal planning and execution. She was a champ! My brother and I went turkey hunting in a heavy rain. We did not see a turkey, but we did witness the beauty of a big red coyote lope through the woods unaware of our presence.
Here is Debbie telling you how she has been:
Hi everybody! We miss you a lot. I have, in general, been great. Much improved over the last two years. I did, unfortunately, have about 3-4 weeks of mania starting in mid-November, the day after I had my first appointment with a psychiatrist out here. Phew! He put me on a drug I had never tried before, and it seems to work pretty well. I am feeling pretty normal now. I am working on a book about what it is like to be bipolar, and I would especially like to write one for Henry, because all of this is very hard for him to understand, of course. In the meantime, I am getting used to Ohio and enjoying living here with Charlie (who I see a lot of. Yay!), Henry, and Beth. I do long for the Northwest, however. But at the same time I can honestly say that the cold winter weather is great and it is so beautiful. Bye for now. Merry Christmas.
Henry is happy and thriving. And yet he is undergoing a difficult medical condition. Last July he had numerous small growths called polyps removed from his large intestine. It involved several doctor visits and a long surgery at Children's Hospital in Seattle. Well, we just underwent the same thing this week at Children's in Columbus. To our disappointment they found a bunch again. The question is whether they are ones that were missed in July, or whether they are ones that grew since then. Biopsies were taken for which we are anxiously waiting on the results of the lab tests. And he has to go back in January to have it done again and then again this coming summer. It is all very hard. Please pray that all goes well and that Henry will be troubled as little as possible by this.
On the up side, Henry is singing in the Christmas pageant at church and enjoying it. And today we will go sledding on the hills because school has been cancelled due to snow! Yippee!
Love to you all, Charlie