April McGowan

Lean On Me

I took my son to see his specialist the other day. While we were sitting there, he played with his Lego men and another mom sat reading a book to her son. Across the room, a couple held their daughter and made little jokes. It’s unspoken that we’re all there for a reason—our kids suffer from some sort of gastrointestinal illness. As we pretended we were there for ‘normal’ reasons, a woman entered, pushing her disabled young son in a raised wheel chair. As soon as the door opened, the boy made himself known. He wailed in a most heart-wrenching way.

As she checked in at the receptionist’s desk, his wails grew louder, more intense. He sobbed, screamed and then began a rasping gag. I surmised he had lung issues, with whatever other health issues he had. And he was one unhappy boy.

Everyone in the room immediately got quiet and tried looking at anything in the room except for the crying boy. My son’s hands stilled over his toys but, instead of looking away, stared openly at the other boy, his own eyes filling with tears. Mine soon followed. He looked up at me, face full of fear mixed with compassion. We’ve had a lot of moments these past four years that have made the frailness of life very apparent to us—but seeing someone so young suffering really hit home with Seth.

The boy’s sobs and rasps quieted as his very patient mother took off his coat and brushed her hands down his arms, adjusting his legs and shifting his Spongebob pillow behind his neck to make him more comfortable. It was then I noticed the boy’s earplugs. As the patients were called, they left the room with relief. I have to admit, I was hoping for our turn—as the boy still had not quit crying and gagging on phlegm. I felt tense from his screams and it’d only been fifteen minutes—and then I looked at the mother’s face. She seemed so alone. I wondered if she had anyone to lean on.

I put myself in her place, isolated, care-giving for her son all day long, and probably all night long as well. Exhausting. For them both.

Instead of acting like they weren’t there, I engaged her in conversation past his wails and rasps. I asked if he had breathing problems, and she said he’d suffered a brain injury so his lungs and muscles didn’t do what they were supposed to, to help clear things out. He was five. As she spoke, he calmed a bit and then another person entered the room and the door buzzer went off—and so did the boys cries.

I said, “He hates his chair, does he?” I don’t know what made me think that. I remember my own son, hating his car seat so much that he’d scream the entire time he was in it. He wasn’t uncomfortable, he wasn’t hurting, but he hated it and would scream bloody murder.

Her eyes lit up. “Yes, he does. And loud noises, they frighten him.” She motioned to the ear plugs. For a moment, we were just two mom’s visiting, sharing notes about our boys. Then it was his turn, and she gave me a grateful smile and wheeled her son into their appointment.

I looked down at Seth, still sitting quietly, thinking. “That was hard, wasn’t it?” I asked him, knowing full well he’d be thinking about the boy and how hard his life was for days. He nodded. “Let’s pray for that mom and boy, okay?” And he nodded again. We took some time right there to pray.

It’s our nature to avoid suffering. It’s hard and scary and it makes us feel insecure. Life can be like that.  But I think worse than suffering, is pretending it doesn’t exist. There are people in pain all around us, even if they aren’t crying out—it’d do us all well to stop and listen, to be there and be compassionate. To come alongside them, a shoulder to lean on. And pray.

Romans 12:15  Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. (full text here)

Mathew 7:12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. (full text here)

1 John 4:7-12  Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. (full text here)

15 Comments

  1. joanleotta
    Oct 26, 2012

    Thanb

    Thank you for posting, April–may I repost this on my blog on my Monday as a guest blog from you, crediting your blog/website?
    Please contact me by email Joanleotta@atmc.net

    • April
      Oct 26, 2012

      Wow, what an honor. Contacting you now. 🙂

  2. Christine
    Oct 26, 2012

    Amazing April. You Are such a blessing to all you come in contact with. I’ll add something I’ve learned…..don’t talk over the person in the wheelchair asking the caregiver questions as if the the rider doesn’t exist. Instead, squat down and ask the rider how they are. They rarely get spoken to.

    • April
      Oct 26, 2012

      That’s so true, Christine. I don’t know why, but so often people don’t know what to say for fear of saying the wrong thing. They’re the same as we are–with extra equipment and many more challenges.

  3. Jill Richardson
    Oct 26, 2012

    Thank you, April. That’s beautiful and so on target. I think the worst part of difficulties of any kind is the isolation. You invited someone back into community and treated her like a normal human being. That’s a giant thing to do.

    • April
      Oct 26, 2012

      Thanks Jill. I can’t tell you what a changing experience that was. I have never been moved to tears like that for a stranger. I’m so glad I listened to the nudge in my heart. I will never be the same.

  4. tnealtarver
    Oct 26, 2012

    Your title caught my attention. Your story kept it. Thanks for sharing.

    • April
      Oct 26, 2012

      Thanks very much for stopping by and for your comments. I hope you’re having a peaceful day.

  5. Marriott Cole
    Oct 28, 2012

    Hi April, your story reminds me of the time I had undergone topical chemotherapy on my face, destroying the top eight layers of skin. One school bus driver joked when he saw me picking up my kids after school in October, “Oh, you’re wearing your Halloween mask early!” I knew my face was covered with scabs and worse, and when going to the grocery store, I figured it would be vain of me not to go. It allowed me to experience first hand what it feels like to experience stares and quickly averted looks. No one smiles at me. I felt like a pariah. The experience made me want to be friendly to those less fortunate, as you and your son did. Many blessings to you!

    • AMcGowan
      Oct 28, 2012

      MC, I’m so sorry that happened to you! How awful of that bus driver to say that! People can be so unthinking. I’m glad you turned it into a blessing, though!

  6. David N. Walker
    Oct 29, 2012

    What a sweet story, April. I love your reaction to the situation as well as your son’s. How many of us would have been so thoughtful.

    • Debbie Carpenter
      Oct 30, 2012

      I hear what you’re saying David. I will stop & pray for people in those situations, but if I don’t speak up, they’ll never know. April has given us all an example of how to handle situations like this. Give me strength Lord to do it!

      • AMcGowan
        Oct 30, 2012

        For me, it was a nudge in my heart that I followed. So glad I did. Thanks David and Debbie 🙂

  7. Anne Baxter Campbell
    Nov 2, 2012

    Thank you, April. God can use us if we just pay attention to His nudges.

    • April
      Nov 2, 2012

      Absolutely, Anne. I just hope to keep alert and notice them!

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