A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Posts Tagged ‘illness

We’ ve all heard about criticisms levelled at people whose physical challenge wasn’t immediately obvious—arthritis or the early stages of multiple sclerosis, for example—when they used parking spaces reserved for those with a disability.

Not all pain or illness is easy to spot. But do we keep that in mind as we go about our day?

We see the driver moving too slowly in the passing lane, or the person with too many items in the express lane at the store, or the cell phone user chatting too loudly, and we assume the person is inconsiderate or uncaring of the rules or selfish.

Do we ever stop to think about what this person might be dealing with?

We’ve mentally tagged the person as obnoxious when he or she might be reeling from a personal situation: a layoff, the needs of elderly parents or young children or both, a recent health scare or an ongoing health situation, a marital crisis, financial loss, or even a combination of these.

That person might be more tense than usual when driving, unaware of how many items are in the cart, too caught up in the situation to worry about who can hear the cell phone conversation. Too wrapped up in his or her stress or pain to worry much about social graces. Too busy working to keep putting one foot in front of the other to be concerned about others’ opinions.

We can’t do anything about the behaviour of strangers, although we can work harder to keep from taking it personally and to remember that we have no idea what they might be struggling with.

As for people we know, if they’re acting out of character, we can do something. We can reach out. Invite them out for coffee. Ask how they’re really doing and whether things are okay. Offer to pray with or for them. Let them know someone cares enough to ask.

I’ve been coping with a lot of stress this year. I hide it fairly well with smiles and little jokes. And makeup. But those who know me have seen the stress and offered support—a phone call, a text, a hug, coffee and conversation—and that has made the stress a little more bearable.

Before we judge others for what seems to be simple thoughtlessness, I pray that we would take a moment to ask ourselves what they might be trying to handle that isn’t plain to see. May we pray for those whose struggle isn’t obvious, bearing in mind these words from Psalm 147:3*:

He heals the brokenhearted,

and binds up their wounds.

(*Scripture quote taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, 2nd Catholic Edition.)


zebra finch

Queenie, our female zebra finch and the latest addition to our “zoo”

I’ve mentioned we kind of have a small zoo at my house. Most of my pets cope with chronic conditions but keep on going:

  • Skittles, my senior cat, has arthritis and needs two insulin shots each day for diabetes, but it doesn’t stop him from watching the wildlife and being social (and complaining at our other cat, Pixie).
  • Syd, one of our zebra finches, has balance issues and isn’t always stable on his perches, but he can often be found flying around the cage and trying to build a nest that his cage mate, Bart, will pull apart.
  • Queenie, our newest zebra finch, was picked on by the male finches she was housed with at the store and suffered an injury to her legs, but she chatters from her perches (which are wrapped with self-adhesive bandages) and flies like the wind when she’s out of her cage.
  • Molly, our bulldog, has hip dysplasia and had dental surgery on Tuesday for overgrown gums (hence the single post this week), but most days, she still plays tug-of-war with her toy like a puppy and guards her domain.

And we also have a corn snake, Rusty, who continues to shed and grow regularly.

Maybe it’s because they instinctively know health issues can’t slow them down, but as I see each day, animals can be surprisingly resilient. The flesh may be weak, but their spirits are still willing.

Is the same true of us?

Sometimes people succumb to illnesses that shouldn’t have ended their lives; my grandfather was a case in point. And sometimes people survive when doctors expect the worst. Brad Willis, formerly a foreign news correspondent, wrote about the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in his autobiography, Warrior Pose: How Yoga (Literally) Saved My Life. He noted that wounded people who had loved ones to support them survived terrible injuries, while the mercenaries without that kind of support failed to recover.

This echoes the words I read today in Proverbs 18:14*:

A man’s spirit will endure sickness;

but a broken spirit who can bear?

Whether we face a chronic condition such as Crohn’s or diabetes, a more immediately life-threatening illness such as cancer, mental health issues, or addiction, a broken spirit can’t help our prognosis. On the other hand, when we have the support of family, friends and our faith community and a strong faith in the Lord, our recovery isn’t guaranteed but we’re better equipped to face the situation, do our part to work toward better health and feel hopeful about the future.

Whatever our challenges, may we trust in God to be our strength and heal our brokenness of spirit.

For God alone my soul waits in silence,

for my hope is from him.

He only is my rock and my salvation,

my fortress; I shall not be shaken.

On God rests my deliverance and my honor;

my mighty rock, my refuge is God.

~ Psalm 62:5-7

(*Scripture quotes taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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