My mother, Genie, died in 1993 of Primary Pulmonary Hypertension. She was only 53. I think they have since changed the name of her illness, though they still don't know much about it, nor do they have a cure. Curiously, they can now slow it's progress with Viagra. A fact that would have made Mother laugh and given Dad ammunition for much teasing.
A couple of years ago my Dad gave me a box of some of Mom's papers that I stuck away without sorting. When I finally looked through them I found a series of short talks she gave sometime in the late 1980's at a retreat to a group of young wives from Princeton Theological Seminary.
The opening section was entitled "What is Suffering". I found it very characteristic of my mother that though she mentioned my brother's death she didn't share a lot of details about the rest of that awful year. That same year:
- my parents also lost two close family friends to unexpected deaths.
- My father lost his job and we moved from Maryland to Canada, and then from Canada to New Jersey.
- My mother's father died.
- For a while in Canada the doctors thought that I had Leukemia.
- My sisters were teenagers.
I thought I'd post the talks one or two at a time as I go through them.
What is Suffering?
You have suffered today. In some way.
Some of you cleaned the house, left meals prepared, did the laundry for the children and your husband so that you could be away tonight and tomorrow...without TOO much guilt.
You have gone thru this day so quickly that right now you have an Excedrin headache #99.
Your kids have been sick since the 1st of October and you are so tired of runny noses that you could scream.
You just found out that your husband's job is to be terminated.
The washer and dryer both stopped working. Both at the same time.
Your family doesn't understand your desire to be a Christian and belittle you.
Some of you are thinking, "None of these are suffering. Some are minor discomforts... Let me tell you about REAL suffering".
I know that a divorce, death of a mate, parent or a child is real suffering. But the other can be too.
My husband and I have had the experience of the death of a child. We had three daughters when our son, Nathan was born in 1970. He was named Nathaniel because it means Gift of God and we felt that he was indeed a gift.
When he was in first grade he had to cross a very busy four lane street to get to school. He was not allowed to cross alone...we walked him across going to school and met him when it was time to come home. One day he saw me and ran to meet me...He was hit by a car and killed instantly.
Most often, tho, we only go thru a death like that once. Or a divorce once. Death of parents once...
We learn to deal with this and we hope never to use that ability again for ourselves in our whole lives.
The little discomforts and illness come all the time and we need to know how to give them over to God so that we can know how to give the big ones.
My definition of suffering is anything unpleasant, hard to deal with, anything that causes pain or grief.