Sunday, June 24, 2012

Pink angels, huh?

Lyme Disease, grief, fibromyalgia, depression, and plenty of other illnesses are invisible, you can't plainly see that a person is suffering because there is no visible proof.  As people who suffer from invisible illness, we are pretty aware of how powerful and real something you cannot see can really be.  

I'd like to tell you about something profoundly personal that happened to me.  Probably the most personal thing I will ever share with one simple click.  You don't need to believe it to have happened at all, let alone to be as significant as I believe it to be, but please be respectful to me after you read it.

Just shy of 12 months ago, my mother-in-law died of pancreatic cancer (you may have been wondering why I keep mentioning grief as an invisible thing that makes you suffer, this is why).  She was wise, fun, artistic, and deeply spiritual.  She left behind many pieces of art - poetry, children's stories, but mostly paintings.  When we got all the stuff printed up for the funeral (the memorial cards, thank you cards, etc.) we had one of her paintings printed on the cover - an angel with the handwritten verse: 'See, I am sending an angel before you to guard you along the way. Ex 23:20'  We thought that would be especially significant and nice, since she had painted an angels series and given one each to her 5 children. 

As I've been healing and getting better, I've been trying to make up for the last 10 months of little attention paid to my spiritual well-being, what with pretty much all my energy put into my physical well-being.  It probably has a lot to do with the 1 year anniversary of my mother-in-law's death just around the corner, but I've been doing a lot of reflecting on the spiritual nature of things, outside myself.  You know, all that invisible, yet powerful stuff.  But there was an event that started this new focus.

I was talking with an open-minded someone (who has a medical background) about my health and we were talking about my fever and my joints, it was kinda like a doctor's appointment.  We were both thrilled and excited that I seem to be getting much better. When we were almost done talking, she said, 'and why are you pink?'  I looked at my arm, it didn't look pink to me, I did feel a little flushed so I replied, 'I don't know, I'm kinda hot right now.'  Then she said, 'no, I mean an aura, there's pink all around you.'  (Now I know what you must be thinking - it's kinda weird when people say they see colors around people.  Maybe they do, maybe they don't.  Who knows why or why not, but remember I'm speaking with someone who has a medical background and is also open-minded, not a grass-skirt-wearing, patchouli-scented moon maiden).  I didn't know if she really saw the pink or not, either way, it was fine with me if she wanted to think she saw it.  Wanting to be respectful, but not quite knowing how to respond, I kinda looked at her, and as nonchalantly as I could, I said, 'I don't know.'  She kinda shrugged and said, 'Oh well, must be angels.  You do have lots of angels around you.'  I thought to myself, 'pink angels, huh?  Sure, I'll take 'em, I'll take all the help I can get!' I think I mostly forgot that happened, because I didn't think about it again for a while.

A few weeks later, I was standing in my husband's office and was admiring this stained glass piece that one of my sister's-in-law had custom made for us.  It's a beautiful piece of the angel my mother-in-law had painted, the same one we worked with a lot in putting the funeral together; a nice likeness.  I don't know how I never noticed before, but it's pink. 

My pink angel(s).

'May you be aware of His angels near you to bring strength and hope and peace.'
   ~  Handwritten by my mother-in-law on the back of the original angel painting  

(*Can I also just say how resilient and full of strength my husband is?  Within a 2 month period, we watched his mother get sick and die, the dog he's had since he was 13 get sick and die, and me get sick.  I don't know where I would be without him and his ever-caring, compassionate, healing self.  I am so lucky, I can't even stand it.)

Monday, June 4, 2012


I think that when some big things happen in life, like the death of a loved one, a chronic illness (like Lyme Disease), or an injury, or something else that makes your life change drastically, you, most times unwillingly, are entered into a club. A club of people separate from the normal life and daily 'worries' that most people live in.  Your biggest concern is no longer what to wear, what to eat for dinner, vacation or business decisions. Your biggest concern is how to get through one day.  Today.

You have entered a world of challenges and changes coming so fast and from everywhere that it's hard to keep up.  Nobody teaches you how to give up your job, your social life, your school, or other things that make your life your life.   It's easy to feel alone, desolate.  After all, everyone else is still concerned with the latest hairstyle or where they'll go next for vacation and they don't really understand what you're going through.  (Keep in mind, through no fault of their own - I mean, face it - you didn't consider that life could be so hard until 'it' happened to you.)

But the other side to the usual 'odd man out' feeling is that you have become a member of this thing called the 'hard knock life.'  There are plenty of people who are also suffering invisibly, just like you are.  You probably don't see them at work, or at the library, or in your normal everyday life.  But they're there.  You just have to find them.  (Thank GOD for the internet, right?)

Some of you may be familiar with the political state of Wisconsin right now - there's a recall election coming up, tomorrow actually, to decide if we want to keep our present Governor, Scott Walker, or elect someone else, Mayor of Milwaukee Tom Barrett to take over.  I only mention it because one of the bigger catchphrases of the side who wants to elect Tom Barrett  is the pro-union side, who often uses the uniting battle cry 'Solidarity!' to stick together with the rights of the union interests.

Solidarity means sticking together, a group of people with a common interest or common responsibilities.  And that's us.  Even though you probably won't meet others struggling with chronic illness or grief or injury in your every day life, you are not alone.  There are others with your shared interest (getting through today) and your shared responsibilities.  You just need to find them.  And if you read this, you just did.