Heather hurts. A lot.
I wish I could say those words felt unfamiliar.
She’s had a lot of practice. Since her teen years, my wife has put together a list of conditions that sounds more like a pre-med syllabus. Crohn’s disease. Multiple sclerosis. Ankylosing spondylitis. By now, if we ever hit a Jeopardy! category called “Autoimmunity,” we’re sure to clean up on the Daily Double.
Yes, we joke about it sometimes. We’ve had to, the way Londoners in World War II sometimes joked about the Blitz. (“Last night’s raid hit Monkey Hill at the zoo. The morale of the monkeys remains unaffected.”) We’ve quipped about how Heather’s conditions mostly have the courtesy to take turns, flaring one at a time, or how catchy some of the medical terms would sound when set to music. In a situation you can’t control, sometimes absurdity helps get you through.
And sometimes nothing does.
The last few days have been part of that “nothing.”
Heather’s control is amazing. Most of the time, she carries on so well you wouldn’t realize anything’s wrong, at least, not until she went upstairs for an extended nap. So when the breakthroughs happen … well that’s when you know it’s truly awful.
That’s when 3 a.m. comes and sleep doesn’t.
Words become inadequate. Gestures of comfort feel small. All you can do is try to make it through the night and hope the next day brings more strength to face a painful world with. Sometimes it does. Sometimes you’re just fighting the battle again.
Even without a diagnosis, I think a lot of Longmont is fighting a similar battle right now.
We’ve all grown used to bad news in the world. Maybe too much so. When life keeps screaming in your ear on a regular basis, your mind has to push some of it away out of sheer survival, just to make it through the day.
And then it hits close to home. And you can’t not hear.
You can’t not feel the pain.
You know the story. By now, I think we all do. I don’t need to recount the mailbox shooting point for painful point, where one life was taken and at least two more forever changed. Some of us knew the people at the heart of it. Some had never heard their names before Wednesday.
But all of us are hurting now.
We don’t want things like this to be real. We want to understand why, as if that would forever keep the pain from returning.
But we don’t understand. We can’t.
And a sleepless 3 a.m. comes again.
I don’t have any miraculous words of wisdom here. I don’t think anyone does. Nothing that wouldn’t feel like trying to wrap a wound in tissue paper. The tools aren’t strong enough for the task.
All I can offer us is each other.
When the incomprehensible comes, whatever form it takes, we need someone there. The friend who can listen as the pain pours out in words. The partner whose gentle touch is a reminder that we don’t stand alone. The souls beyond our own who can walk with us and face the unimaginable together.
It may not be enough. But it’s more than we have alone.
And together, maybe we can reach the morning.