-Written by Katy (edited by Elisabeth)
(Update on Stan: Thank you so much for those who have been praying! Though there were some unexpected delays the radiation treatments are now over and the side effects are subsiding. Thank you for your prayers!)
There is pain and tension in me when I remember the life of freedom I had before the stroke and the losses since. Some ask what it’s like for me now. Here are some things I miss from life before stroke:
- putting things away, doing dishes, cleaning, grocery shopping, or any kind of shopping
- enjoying a meal without having to be totally focused on chewing and swallowing, so as not to choke
- sleeping on my side
- showering alone
- doors in the bathroom (we had to remove doors to allow for wheelchair access)
- traveling with Stan
- my arm and leg (nicknamed Wilson and Wilma). I not only have limited mobility on the left side but I also have limited feeling, this means I often don’t know where my arm and leg even are! I have been tempted to get red and white striped leggings to wear as we are often saying “where’s Wilson, where’s Wilma?!” In retrospect – a better name would have been Waldo!
- my church family at LCC in Albany
- the Adirondacks this time of year
- my life before
- going out to eat, to church, or paying visits, even to my father across the street, without the hassle of wheelchairs, ramps, access…..
- modesty and privacy
- painting my nails
- sandals and dressier shoes (I now only wear sneakers due to the need for ankle support as I learn to walk again)
- slipping discreetly in and out of places
- a complete sense of time and space. Since the stroke I have struggled to remember certain things, like what day of the week it is!
- life without taking medications three times a day
- holding a book or magazine and turning pages without dropping whatever I’m trying to read. (Yes, I do know I can read online or listen to recordings)
- carrying my Purse
- feeling good and living pain free
- feeling a kiss on my left cheek
- holding and carrying my grandchildren
- I miss normal!
This recovery has been a long grieving process in which I have repeatedly cycled through stages of grief: denial, shock, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. While they don’t come neatly in order or well defined, it does help to see that these emotions are normal when dealing with any loss.
Acceptance is the one I have returned to the most. Just when I think I’ve accepted this “new normal” another loss comes along, a wave of grief, an unanswered prayer, an unmet need, transition of care, or adjustment of some kind… And then once again I find myself seeking acceptance in my heart. Our lives have been so completely turned upside down by my stroke that it’s very difficult to see any gains in the midst of losses for what God has chosen to allow. Yet I long to accept what God has allowed, and to go even beyond acceptance to the attitude expressed in the writing below – welcoming God’s plan however it unfolds. He’s the scriptwriter, whether I like the script or not. I often find myself quoting The Serenity Prayer:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change
Courage to change the things I can
And wisdom to know the difference
I struggle to come to peace with and accept my “new normal” – dependence. Its not easy for me to come to terms with this experience being God’s will for me. In living out these losses, its easy to forget His character of compassion, feeling as though He has forsaken me. I have drawn comfort from Lamentation 3:32-33 in helping me come to peace with the tension between what God causes and what He allows:
Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone.
It’s difficult to embrace His will when it’s painful. But, in the end, I realize that He had the power to stop this stroke and still has the power to heal. I must surrender at a deeper level to what He has permitted and what His will is for me now. Can I accept it and still firmly believe He is a God of compassion and mercy, who never leaves me or forsakes me?
The following poem written by Madame Guyon has ministered to me as I wrestle with these questions. Her ‘cage’ was a prison cell, mine is a wheelchair but her words have helped me in coming to a place of deeper surrender. A place where I can say the words that Jesus said in the garden “Not my will, but Yours, be done.” I am believing that the Lord can give me the serenity to accept His will “and in His mighty will to find, The joy, the freedom, of the mind” as the poem says so beautifully.
A little bird I am,
Shut from the fields of air;
And in my cage I sit and sing
To Him who placed me there;
Well pleased a prisoner to be
Because, my God, it pleases Thee.
Naught have I else to do;
I sing the whole day long;
And He whom most I love to please,
Doth listen to my song:
He caught and he bound my wandering wing,
But still He bends to hear me sing.
My cage confines me round;
Abroad I cannot fly;
But though my wing is closely bound,
My heart’s at liberty;
My prison walls cannot control
The flight, the freedom of the soul.
Oh! It is good to soar
These bolts and bars above,
To Him whose purpose I adore,
Whose providence I love;
And in His mighty will to find
The joy, the freedom, of the mind.