I was ill recently – and what amazing things I was shown!
I was feverish, and fussing ineffectually about the kitchen, and my fourteen year old suggested I go to bed, and then he did the washing. My nine year old cooked dinner. My seven year old sorted the clean clothes and kept checking to see if I needed anything. They took over, and they took care of me.
The next day, friends took my two youngest for the day, which included taking them to their activities, while I was left alone to look after myself only. What a luxury.
Times of illness are times when we need others. They can be good times. Times when we are shown how others care for us.
It can also be painful – if what we see is that those around us do not yet know how to take care, or that we have not created a community around ourselves to support us in times of need. This is painful – but also an eye-opener. As a result we may choose to give greater energy to our relationships with neighbours, friends and family. We may also reflect on how we take care of others when they are unwell, as this is what we model to our children.
When my children are ill, I try to cancel everything, and life becomes full of soothing drinks, hot water bottles, cold flannels, tempting morsels of nourishment, and stories read aloud. One autumn my children caught measles, one after another, and they remember it with great fondness – “It was like Christmas!” my youngest declared. Favourite foods and board games in bed, lots of cuddles and family time.
I have to do battle with the demanding driver inside my head though – that side of me that takes pride in carrying on, no matter what. I have to silence those voices that try to convince me that I must not cancel things, that I cannot let people down, that we may miss out, that perhaps the illness is not so bad. I also notice there are times when my life has become too full of commitments for me to easily make space for healing. A life which cannot accommodate a slowing down when that is needed, is a life out of balance. Mine often is.
I believe that experiencing the love and caring of others during illness
heals all manner of things.
That is why I try to ask for help when I am unwell; and believe me this does not come naturally to me – giving others the opportunity of taking care of me.
It is also why I try to give myself over to the nurturing of my children when they are unwell. I want them to learn what a person needs in order to recover from an illness, so when they are grown they can do it for themselves, or me, or their own.