Community

Community, The Support Group in Sickness “Can you not watch with me one hour?”

Community, The Support Group in Sickness  “Can you not watch with me one hour?”

I was asked to put the following reflection on my website by a friend.  The reflection came about because another friend happened to phone me at a point when I was feeling the weight of having cancer.  I was sad and feeling alone.  She interpreted that as depression and phoned a cancer support group.  I was unaware of this until she phoned me back and said that someone was waiting on the other line to talk to me. I was floored!  My answer was “No”.  My friend was trying to offer help.

After getting over the shock and taking some time in quiet and prayer, I laughed and said to myself  “My are you ever consistent!”

Then I wrote the following reflection.

I did not say I was depressed.  Being sad and needing a friend does not mean one is depressed.  I am a very strong believer that one is meant to find, and receive one’s support from within the community that they live in,Can  and are a part of – especially the faith community.  This is how I live my life and hopefully will live it until the end.  The very thought of support groups for a particular illness leaves me cold.  Segregation is anathema to me – whether for health or old age.  For me it goes totally against my belief in community. At times it becomes absolutely necessary to make use of Health Care Centers, as it did when my mother had advanced Alzheimer disease.

My faith tells me that “All is gift” as St. Paul states, (Rm. 28:8) – this includes illness, and we are to be thankful in all things.  To be thankful, – to see all as gift – does not mean there is no suffering.  To be thankful gives meaning to the suffering.  To be thankful in sickness and suffering means that one needs faith. I have learned to be thankful – even for the most difficult things.  I am not a cancer patient – I am Monica who happens to have cancer.  I was not Monica a lupus patient when I was diagnosed with lupus, over 30 years ago.  I was Monica who happened to have lupus, and I was going to live out my life, owning my chronic disease.  There was a support group that they wanted me to attend.  No way!  They asked me to go to one or two sessions.  I agreed.  One was more than enough!!!!  I had the condition, and had lived with it for 13 years before being diagnosed- I didn’t need to sit around and talk about it!  It is enough to live with it.  It was going to become woven into the fabric of my life as a witness to God’s love and support.

One needs friends around when the going gets tough in life.   Jesus needed his friends in the Garden.  He didn’t need a support group to tell him all about the crucifixion and how to deal with each of its horrors.  He was lonely – he was afraid.  He needed his friends to say they loved him – he needed their closeness.  He needed to be able to share his fear with them and gain strength from their love.  That is part of what the beatitudes are about.  That is what christian community is about.

We are not meant to be left as Jesus was, by sleeping friends – left on one’s own because people are afraid to step out of their comfort zone to meet us where we are at – and just hold us when we need to be held.  Nor are we meant to be on our own because we are afraid to speak of our struggle with our friends.  They don’t need to have answers and solutions to our frailty – a kleenex and a hug, or a cup of coffee and a listening ear will do just fine – a joke, a prayer or just to sit in silence.  Within every one of us there is the life-long call to be the Good Samaritan – even when we are tired in on our own journey, and on our own as the Good Samaritan was. We always have more to give than we believe we have.

There are times when we are left to suffer the loneliness as Jesus did in the Garden.  He expressed this loneliness to his friends – they just fell back to sleep!  So he mentioned it to his Father in fear and trembling.  He was not depressed.  He was in anguish! And in this anguish his faith and love of the Father grew, and his strength grew in direct proportion to this faith.  His friends learned a life long lesson!  We know especially about Peter.

If I had gone to support groups for all my chronic conditions there would not have been time for living – arthritis, crones disease, fibromyalgia, lupus etc. – a mother who was dying inch by inch for nine long years with Alzheimer’s.  Each of these things, and now cancer are to be absorbed into the fabric of my being, further defining who I am as a child of God, here and now at this moment in time. They are a gift to offer the community.  Through it I offer a gift to the world, especially the immediate world around me.  Together we learn the love of God for us.  We learn how to live the Beatitudes each day.  We learn the meaning of life found in sickness and suffering.  We learn how to live in faith in our human frailty within the community of faith.

If you find it helpful talking to a support person that is great!  And I am not knocking that.

But be assured that if I need to cry, or vent fear and frustration at exhaustion and the dark unknown, I will do so.  At times it will be plaintive and at times it will be with humour.  I will ask, as Jesus taught us to ask our friends:  “Can you not watch with me one hour?”