The wiring of the human brain is a more complex system than any computer motherboard and is as unfathomable as the depths and vastness of the ocean, or the galaxies of the Heavens.
Our most base reflex reactions are the fight and flight of survival and the instinct of avoiding pain.
To know acute pain is one thing and the agony of chronic pain another.
By the grace of God, I have known only acute pain, that of the childbearing variety, experienced by women who have succumbed to the natural delivery of life, as God intended – no medals issued! Following this remarkable experience, I am confident that God has NOT pegged me for any other brave, pain bearing tasks, certainly not of the chronic variety, as I have witnessed in the bravest of family and friends.
Having spent the past couple of weeks living through Darling’s acute sciatic pain, that seems to have transferred itself into chronic nerve pain, I realise how powerful this hidden, silent force truly is.
What is it about our human body’s nervous system that sometimes short circuits and freezes us in our tracks – is it a means to reboot our frenetic lifestyles? Perhaps it’s intended to get us off the rat race wheel of modern day living and bring us back to a slower, quieter way of times past and a recalibration of our priorities?
All this agony to shock us into counting our blessings and rendering us more reliant on our Creator than ever? I’m certainly not equipped to answer any of these self imposed questions other than to say that the agony of witnessing the agony in a loved one, is truly agony itself!
The power of pain is not greater than the power of prayer. This is as close as I have been able to come to a sense of understanding. I know, for certain, that God is nearer to those who suffer because it is then that we need God the most. If not to take our focus off the pain, than to retain a semblance of our charming personalities that have been lost in the cloud of suffering through the agony of whatever it is that ails one.
In my new work, that of home care for the elderly, I am made all the more aware of this human frailty. Our bodies certainly let us down, as we grow older, and pain is too often the result of this challenge.
I am convinced that this is the reason for the characters that I have heard spoken about in my youth, or known myself, being somewhat unfairly titled “cranky old man” or “grumpy old lady”. Unfair, in that most elderly live with some level of pain and to be manhandled into completing the daily tasks of bodily function, can surely be nothing short of painful, if not merely uncomfortable.
Coupled with the indignity that this stage of our lives offers, having to have our most basic needs met by another person, it is surely no wonder that some folk become a little cranky or grumpy.
Suffice to say that I have been moved to further compassion for the elderly who find themselves in need of personal assistance and my heart breaks for those who are not in a position to be too choosy about by whom and when that assistance is delivered. These are the folks that are far too often abused by unscrupulous carers who take advantage of frail minds and are impatient with aching bodies. There are certainly enough “horror stories” of this nature out in the world which is truly shameful.
I am in awe of long term carers of the elderly and the ill, especially those whose charge is a beloved spouse or family member. Their patience and perseverance is worthy of sainthood, in my eyes and I know that there is a special place in Heaven waiting for their weary arrival one day!
Similarly, I am humbled by my friend who lives with constant pain, always a smile on her face, always enquiring about my trivial issues and the challenges and achievements of my family, before any mention of her own suffering. I have seen her reduced by that pain but somehow, by the next day, she has managed to gather herself once again to bravely step right back into the fast lane of her life, nary a moan or grumble, never mind a pity-party invitation, instead an invitation to a brisk walk in the woods, a pleasant cup of tea or a bargain-shopping excursion!
May I have the courage to one day face the final phase of earthly life with humility and grace and gratitude for those who take care of my personal needs.