There is something about the ending of the old and the beginning of the new year that causes us to pause for a moment and reflect upon our lives and to ask ourselves the all important question, is my life a success? Have I made the right choices and earned the right to call my life a success?
With great in trepidation we pull out the familiar yard stick and measure our lives with those of our friends and neighbors. Fully believing that if we can check all of the right boxes, we can stand among the proud, the few, and declare that we have earned the coveted award of success.
The problem is, that no matter how many boxes we check off, the badge of success seems to elude us. We might have a beautiful home and family, have earned the love and devotion of our dearest loved ones, and for a moment we bubble over with pride, confident that we have reached the coveted mark. But then we turn and look at those around us and realize that while our house is lovely, it is not nearly as nice as so and so, that our furniture is plain and drab when compared to our neighbor, and that our income is a mere pittance when compared with that of our sister or brother.
Suddenly, as we compare ourselves with those around us, the warm glow of delight fades and a cold chill of hopelessness takes hold. As we realize that no matter how hard we strive, no matter how hard we try, we cannot grasp that elusive star called success.
Sadly, as long as our measuring tape is viewing our accomplishments against that of others, as long as we make the keeping up with the Jones our mark of success, we will never be able to look with satisfaction upon our lives. Because no matter how hard we strive, no matter how far we climb, there will always be some corner of our life where we will find that someone is standing taller and walking a few steps ahead.
Unfortunately we have come to believe that success is being the richest, the brightest, the fastest rising member of our circle. But this view is like a pile of fools gold glimmering in the noonday sun. It is full of glamour and glitz, but the pursuit of it will leave you feeling hollow, stressed, empty, and burdened down with disappointment.
Instead of taking out the chart and comparing every corner of our lives with those around us, it would be far more valuable to take out the measuring stick and take a good hard look at ourselves. To study where we have grown, and where we have come up short. To look and see how many times we have fallen hard and gotten up. How many times we have made an embarrassing mistake, and even though we wanted to run away from the discomforting glare of the crowd, stuck it out and determinedly got the job done.
Because as wonderful as it would be to taste the success of landing the dream job that will allow us to buy the life that we desire, it is far more valuable to become a success at knowing when to stand our grown, of gaining the muscles of endurance that will allow us to build a relationship with those we love that can stand the bitterest trials of life, and to fall flat on our face, and pick ourselves up and stand firm and tall.
Happy Mother’s Day everyone! And a very special thank you to my Mother and Grandmother. Sadly I do not have the money to take you out to lunch or buy you flowers, but I would like to show you my appreciation by sharing this little poem thanking you and all the selfless mothers who work so hard throughout the year by giving up many of your own comforts so that our lives will be a little bit better. Thank you so much and may God repay you for all that you have done.
And a very special Mother’s Day to my own Mother. I want to say thank you for the hard work that you do all year to make my life and the life of each member of our family more comfortable and productive than what it would be. May God bless your many tears and prayers on our behalf.
Only three months into the new year and 2019 has proved to be a hard year of trial and change.2018 had ended with an ominous tone as the last few weeks of the year saw me lose SSI as well as Medicaid, just as an injury put me in a wheel chair and I was hit by two infections in one month. The stress and fear was intense for me and my family as for the first time in years, we started the new year with the intense worry about how we would pay our bills and the fear of my living life as a chronic invalid with no medical care.
But those fears were quickly put on the back burner as one family member after another was hit by health issues. With one member being transferred from an assisted living facility to a nursing home due to a fall only weeks after moving in, meanwhile another was going blind. Before we could even process that news we learned that another relative was in need of surgery and had been unable to work for weeks due to a major infection that had required a pick line to be inserted so he could give himself antibiotics 3 times a day. At the same time we learned that one of my young cousins, barely in her twenties, was at times having to use a wheelchair due thanks to several health issues including Lyme disease. But worse of all, even though none of us wanted to say it, it was becoming clear that my Grandmother’s health was slipping and that her days are in the process of drawing to a close.
Everywhere I turned it seemed like the health and independence of those I love was under attack. And my heart ached as I thought of how quickly life could change. And what a season of change it was as on top of everyone being hit by a sever case of bronchitis that put my Mother in the hospital for a week, we received the news that my sister was now a diabetic. Having lost both of my Grandfather’s and several relatives to that fearful disease, it was very disheartening news to know that I know must worry that my sister had been hit by this cruel ailment so young.
My one hope was that after being hit with so many trials in such a short time, the worst of the year must at last be behind us. And I was hopeful that the rest of the year would now prove a time of joy. On this note I turned my attention to my nearing birthday. While the thrill of getting a year old is not what it used to be when I was 9 or 10, I was looking forward to spending a relaxing day with my family playing games and enjoying a day of planned meals that would give me one day off from the seemingly endless misery of combing through my long allergy list to determine what I would eat.
My birthday started on a good note, as for the first time in years at least one meal had successfully been prepared in advance and I was strangely feeling good. While my Mother made my birthday cake, I dreamed of a lazy afternoon playing board games and watching some of our favorite You Tube programs. Lunch was delicious. The homemade collard green lasagna was the perfect treat. But a few bites in a strange feeling began to take hold and by the time I took my first bite of birthday cake an all to familiar feeling of nausea was taking hold. I had not even finished my cake when the feeling became so strong that my shivering form had to pace the floor.
In sorrow my family turned to me, knowing that my day was ruined. Their hearts went out to me as I paced the floor as calmly as I could manage, hoping the increasingly intense misery would soon fade. Unfortunately matters quickly became worse as a strange flushed feeling rose from my chest and the room disappeared. Suspicious of the cause I pulled out my blood pressure cuff to reveal that my pulse was racing at 159 beats per minute.
I quickly took a pill for my heart, and hoped that relief would soon come. Minutes passed and the misery continued to increase. Fearful of where the misery was heading I quietly grabbed my pocket book intending to place it on the table on the rare chance I would have to go to ER. But the moment I walked into the room with my pocket book my Mother and sister immediately reacted with concern asking me if I was going to ER. To my surprise I heard myself answering in the affirmative. Wondering at my odd response, I prepared to head to ER. Worrying all the time my foolishness in declaring that I needed to go even though I had no job or insurance to pay the bill.
The ride to ER quickly allayed my fears as I found myself desperately wishing to be at the destination. My sister from her position behind me, seemed to sense that something was fearfully wrong, as she worriedly asked me if I was still here. I did my best to downplay her fears by reassuring her that I was indeed alive, but her anxiety was still heightened and she urged that I should be taken to the nearest ER instead of the one we were heading to which was 10 miles away. I remained quiet, not wanting to increase the stress, but after another wave of that odd feeling washed over my chest I decided that she was probably right.
Arriving at the ER, it was a struggle to get my shaky legs to make their way inside. When the ER nurse finally called me, I struggled to explain my reason for coming, when I still could not explain why I had said that I wanted to come, instead of waiting to see what would happen as I originally planned. The reason was instantly clear to the triage nurse with one look at my pulse which rose and fell like an unhinged roller coaster. Immediately she called back for an EKG and was surprised when I was sent back to the waiting room a few minutes latter.
At last I was sent to a room where two nurses prepared to give me a medicine to help with my pulse. Still feeling rather ill, I would have looked forward to the relief it would provide, except I could not help why they had to send my family out of the room and loosen then unsnap my gown. My heart had raced before, and my family never had to be sent out of the room and the top of my gown prepped for a shot in my IV.
Instead of calming my fears, this move only heightened them. And instinctively I asked if something else could be done tried first. Fortunately I never had to find out why this unusually precautions were required as a recheck of my pulse revealed that it was down in the low 100’s. An hour of laying in the ER bed with an IV dripping liquids into my arm my pulse and nausea had calmed down so much that I felt rather sheepish for coming. That was until, alone in my room as my parents switched places, the doctor came in and said that the MRI of my chest reveled that I might have a blood clot.
Suddenly my world changed, as I realized how fully my life hung in the balance. Nausea and even tachycardia seemed minor to the realization that for some unknown reason my body was making clots leaving me at risk of having a heart attack or stoke. Before the doctor had finished speaking and once again before calling my Father to let him know that he needed to come back so that he would be there when I told my Mother what was wrong, my prayer for aid and comfort had risen to heaven.
As I sat alone in that strange stillness waiting for their return, quietly pondering how my world had changed, I found myself pondering the real possibility that I might never walk out of that hospital. Though I trusted in God, I had to take an honest look at the risk and recognize the possibility that even though He loved me, He might allow something to happen. In that moment I had to ask myself , how close to the threshold of heaven did I stand? But more importantly I had to ask, if the worst happened and my probation came to a crashing end, would I be ready? If my life ended that day and the next words I heard was God’s call, would I be glad to hear Him call my name, or would I squirm in fear.
Somehow as I thought o my personal fears and trials along with the intense unexpected and downward swing of those I loved, I found myself thinking less of my own worries and fears. My thoughts were drawn not to the ugly possibilities of what a stroke could do, but to the promised hope of that land faraway. In that moment oh how precious the promise of Jesus return seemed, as I asked myself how close to the threshold of heaven do I stand?
I hope that as you read this poem, that you will be inspired by this question that has become so close to my heart. And that you will pause from your hectic schedule to make certain that your heart is right with God, because we never know when in an unexpected moment our lives will be turned upside down, and our probation will forever be closed.
How close to the Threshold of Heaven do I Stand?
By Katherine B. Parilli
Where do I stand in the scope of time?
How close am I to crossing over the border?
When will the cup of earth’s iniquity be full?
And when will the door of mercy forever close?
I have grown weary of this world.
My eyes are tired of beholding sin.
My ears do throb from the shouts of vile rabble.
The cries of the widow ascend without ceasing.
And the fears of the oppressed weigh down upon my soul.
When will the trumpet sound?
When will the shout of victory ring though out eternity?
When will the power of the merciless be cut short?
Oh how long till the ugly day of sin come to its final close?
The wicked gather in the streets to mock Thy people.
They exult at the suffering poverty of their prey.
Pushing the poor from their shanty dwellings to make room for their jewel decked mansions.
Demanding an ever-increasing wealth to feed theses sharks of the land.
They hear not the father’s please of mercy for his children’s empty bellies,
Or a mother’s prayer for the protection of her sick child.
How long till the heavens be rolled back?
How long till the sign of the Son of Man appear?
How long till the kingdom of the devil is destroyed?
How long till justice one more fills the land?
Works of wickedness grow bolder each day.
They have no thought of pity for young or old.
Their ears are stopped to the painful moans of the ill or injured.
Their only thoughts are of evil and how to increase their vicious power.
Should not that day be drawing near?
Is not that hour upon us?
Is not the host of Heaven gathering the last sheaves before the harvest?
Is not this increasing of sorrows a sign of Your sure return?
Are You drawing near the door?
The earth is growing weary.
Storms are brewing at every turn.
Pounding land and sea with frightful furry.
The earth rolls and rises as if convulsing.
Like a feverish patient it reels and stumbles
Mercilessly seeking comfort.
Spewing its troubled contents,
Waiting for its day of healing.
Yes the day must be near.
The hour must be drawing close.
For Thou art a God of justice.
Only mercy and love are hidden within Thy wings.
As a loving father seeks the good of his children,
Thou has waited patiently for our return.
Yet Thy justice demands an end to sin.
Thy mercy must vanquish the cruel foe,
and bring an end to human suffering.
The army of the devil shall tremble.
For their fate they will weep.
And the righteous shall rejoice
As their deliverance draws nigh.
Then in that hour I shall be comforted.
My burden of sin licked up by the flames.
No longer my eyes to behold sorrow,
Or my ears the rude jest of a maddened throng.
Hunger, pain, poverty, all burred in the ashes.
Greed, illness, the grave wiped out in the cleansing flames.
Waiting, it is one of the hardest lessons in life to learn, perhaps that is why it seems that most of our life is spent in this frustrating mode. Hard as we may push to avoid this problematic state of unwanted suspension, it seems that some unexpected problem crops us causing one or more of our cherished plans to come to a halt and enter this bleak miasma where like comes to a grinding halt.
It seems that if anyone is need of learning this painful lesson it must be me, for sadly it is in this deplorable state of affairs that one of my newest dreams have fallen. Not that is such a new dream, for bits and pieces of it have been around in some form, but up until now the idea has always been in the background as a nice idea for some future date after my real hopes and goals had been met and I at last had time to relax in the warm glow of having accomplished my grand goals. But once the sad truth at last broke through, that I was not fighting some transient battle with ill health that with a little TLC would vanish into the night never again to reappear, was a lovely dream but not the stark reality, I at last came to the unwanted conclusion that it was time for me to lay down my sword and admit that I was not equipped with the necessary gear of resilient health necessary to slay the giant and claim the castle I had so long desired. But must instead find a new set of dreams that with a little fine tuning could bring the smile back to my face and hope into my frustrated heart.
The seed of this new dream had been planted years earlier as having learned different tidbits about the sad state of the food we put into our bodies, my family and I had at various times kept a small garden. It was never much more than a raised bed of peppers, a bucket of tomatoes, or a few citrus trees, but from this humble start an idea was slowly sprouting, and the dream of growing a garden capable of meeting a fair percentage of my family and my needs.
I recently read an article entitled, “No Fatties”: When Health Care Hurts by Carey Purcell which touched on the biases in care that fat people can face when seeking medical care. As I read the various stories of those whose pain had been ignored, sloughed off as the result of their weight, and sudden, unexplained weight gain being dismissed as nothing more than the result of eating to many burgers, I could not help but recall my own experiences with the medical community that have left me less than thrilled whenever it is time to visit the doctor.
The flurry of emotions raised by this article run strong and deep through my soul like a quiet river that with the slightest rain rises into a ragging torrent. Most days I quietly forget the pain, as I focus my mind upon the daily struggle to keep meaning and purpose in my life along with the battle that comes with living in chronic pain. But there are days that wound rises to the surface and the tears threaten to come rolling down. In order to silence the pin pricks of irritation at being treated as somewhat less than human, I have done the unthinkable in that I have to a great degree shut down the person I once was. I have allowed the battle to alter the course of my life and erase the dream I once cherished.
The change began with simple steps that were almost imperceptible. Little moves such as changing the channel whenever a medical clip or episode of a favorite show came to close to my own experience and threatened to touch a chord I would rather remained silent. Soon I was no longer watching once loved shows like Emergency, Mystery Diagnosis, Quincy ME, programs that had inspired me to hope that one day I might help the suffering and sick too, because to me they had become nothing more than idle tales. Ultimately it progressed to closing the books and shutting down my hopes and dreams of becoming a doctor or at a nurse practitioner.
Even though I had known for a long time that it was coming, the day it finally broke through my thick head that my dream was over, it felt as if my heart had been run over by a mile long bullet train running at full throttle. Tears filled my eyes as I looked down upon the pitiful remnants of the dream that been the driving force of my life since I was five, and finally admitted to myself that like Humpty Dumpty, all the glue in the world would not put it back together again.
I would like to say that when the truth finally knocked its way into my brain, that after a few hours of mourning, I rose from my bed of tears stronger, wiser, more resilient, and with a sweet calmness worthy of emulation. I would like to say that it was such, but sadly for days, weeks, even months I was touchy, moody, and at times only tolerable company as I grieved for the cavernous void in my heart that I had no clue how to ease.
With bitter sorrow I listened to every tidbit of the active world around me. The green eye of envy rising to the surface as I was barraged at every turn by fresh tidbits of my peers success until I dread to hear the phone ring lest it was some loved one sharing news with my Mother that they were certain would bring smiles of delight to our face. News that at other times might have only brought forth a dry smile and a momentary pang of longing that was easily smothered by the abiding hope that one day soon my Mother would triumphantly be able to declare that her daughter had finished premed or graduated from nursing school.
But now that the battle had been conceded, now that I had admitted that my life’s purpose had been defeated by the superior foe of chronic pain and misery, I was like a flimsy dot of a life raft lost at sea. Rising and falling on the storm maddened waves of uncertainty and loneliness and pounded by the beating rains of despair. Like a haunting melody the unforgiving wind declared that I was nothing but a useless blob, a worthless blood sucker sucking the life of my aging parents. With fiendish glee the flashing lightening and earth jarring thunder would announce that my future once so bright and hopeful was doomed to ignominy and failure.
During this bleak time my pain was made more acute as imaginary images of my frightful fate, terrorized my dreams and haunted the most peaceful moments of my days. Like the midnight sectors of Dickens strange Christmas tale, my eyes were tortured by the fearful realization that one day the comforting arms around me would be no more, and that I would be left pale, friendless, and jobless to face a future wandering the streets begging for the stale crumbs of human sympathy.
It seems like I have been meaning to sit down and write a post for months now. I wake up in the middle of the night with my head brimming with things that I long to say, but in the wee hours of the morning who wants to get out of bed? So I do the smart thing and dig deeper into the sheets hoping to fall back to sleep again. Comforting myself with the promise that I will get around to it first thing in the morning. But when morning lights dutifully rouses me from my bed, and I drag my achy bones over to the sofa and pull up my laptop to write, the fatigue and pain makes it so easy to push away my computer and curl up in a ball saying to myself, “A few minutes rest and I will feel more refreshed. After all, there is plenty of time before lunch.”
But of course that little rest soon turns into an hour or two and before I know what has happened it is time to reluctantly drag myself off of the sofa and help my parents make lunch or help with some other small chore around the house. But of course I am not disappointed because the nourishment that lunch has to offer is sure to brighten my thoughts and give my words more force.
But again, before I know what has happened I am awash in a wave of unwanted fatigue that leaves me to dull whited and sleepy to focus on the task at hand. My eyes feel like two heavy weights falling with great force to the earth, and seem to require superhuman effort to keep open. A little nap after a night of painful tossing and turning sings its siren song to my worn bones and before I knew what was happening, I was sound asleep.
On the days that I was able to wake up refreshed from my short spurt in dreamland, I have often tried to sit down at my laptop and write, but my attention was easily swayed by the enormous list of backlogged chores from the all to common days when migraines, fatigue, nausea, and a sea of other miseries that accompanies autoimmune disorders had won the battle for my attention. And it was so easy to say, “It’s still early, there is plenty to time before bed.” Or so it always seemed, because like a slippery lion hunting its prey, bedtime seemed to leap out of the bushes at the most unexpected moment leaving me to declare, “Oh well, tomorrow is another day.”
Before I knew it, one tomorrow had turned into two, then three, four, five, ten, twenty, until I had lost count of how many times I had given into procrastination enchanting song of, don’t worry, if you don’t feel like doing it right now because waiting a few minutes will allow you more time to think about what you plan to say, or don’t worry if you don’t feel well enough to do it right now because you will feel better tomorrow and will be able to do a much better job.
What I find so amazing about it as I sit down to write this post, is that at first I felt bad, about putting off the task, but as I listened to procrastination’s sweet lullaby, I began to rejoice in the relief that there was some better time, some wiser moment to do what I really wanted to do today. I began not think of reasons to do, but reasons to wait for that better season that never quite seemed to materialize but was always around the corner.
Granted, there were some good reasons why I was putting things off. For the past few weeks I have been rather ill. My stomach has been so unsettled that the doctor ordered medicine to help ensure that its contents stayed in its proper place. And some of those mornings and afternoons I spent on the sofa were spent curled up in near tears for the pain I was in. Yet sadly I know that there were some days when it might have taken some effort but with the help of a few pillows to raise me up I could have pulled up my laptop and wrote a few lines, taken a break, and then wrote a little more.
Unfortunately procrastination is a funny master. At first there good reason to delay, such as taking a moment to synthesize ones thought until it crystallized into a more clear and concise form, or to wait until my migraine medicine has worked enough to allow my eyes to endure the glare of the screen. But while it might start with good reason, if this dreadful monster is given too much exercise it quickly morphs into a monster most dreadful. One that if were are not careful has the power to conquer us and forever alter the course of our lives.
When I was in high school, one of my favorite weekend activities was to play Monopoly with my Mother. If it were not for homework and household chores my Mother and I would have played the game all day. We loved going round after round, hoping and waiting for all the properties to brought up so we could make our exchanges and build our hotels.
As I look back on those enjoyable mother/daughter afternoons, I remember that despite nearly always loosing the game, I would have such fun. But there was always a low spot (not counting my nearly perfect record of landing on Park Place or Board Walk after it was brought), that made my heart tremble. And that was landing on the community property space. There were so many dangerous cards to chose from such as pay poor tax, pay school tax, or the dreaded hotel and homes tax.
But one bright spot to the day was the unexpected joy of lifting up the card and discovering that I had chosen the get out of jail free card. That wonderful card which would allow me to get of one jam without having to pay a penalty and having to fork out 50 dollars that I did not have.
As I think about it now, I imagine that to some people it must appear like I or any other chronically ill person has managed to land on community property and by the luck of the draw pull out this special card. This wonderful card that allows us at any moment to get out of work, chores, and any other unpleasant life duty. To many it may seem like if something is too boring, to demanding, to exhausting, dirty, disgusting, stressing, etc we get to pull this little ace from out of sleeves and declare that we are now privileged to get out of work and got and do the things that we really want to do.
The past few weeks have not been my best. I have been caught in the throws of a miserable flair up that has left me feeling cold, tired, and painful. To add to the misery my digestive system has been under constant attack so that some days my appetite drops to nearly nothing while my weight has increased.
Fortunately even in some of the most miserable times, if you look hard enough, you can find something to be grateful for. For me that has been the constant support of my family and my sweet little pup Happy who I sometimes get the unnerving feeling actually likes my sick days because when I am sick I end up camping out on the sofa where he can spend the day curled up on my lap.
Something else which has brought a smile to my worn face is the beauty of several hibiscus plants which have spent the last several weeks in bloom. Greeting me with their gorgeous blooms as I take my short backyard stroll. They have been a source of comfort and joy reminding me that even though there are moments that I tempted to think that life is nothing more than pain and misery, there is a great deal worth smiling about if only we open our eyes and take a good look at the simple wonders all around us.
For many the question of what one’s legacy will be seems odd, even uncomfortable. For some the idea of a legacy is something to be bothered with only by the rich or the very old. Maybe it was being sick and spending days bedridden on the sofa, or the thought that one day soon my life’s record would be brought be for God, but for me I could not help but wonder what type of legacy I was leaving. I often found myself asking if this were my last day, how would I be remembered? If something were to happen and my life were to flash before my eyes, would I blush with shame or smile with joy?
As I pondered the answers to those questions, I realized that as discomforting as it is, there is reason for us to ask this question while we have time to consider the answer and make a change. Because it would be a sad thing to wait until most of our golden opportunities to do good, our best chance to bring joy to the hearts of those we love have slipped away, to reflect upon our actions and realize that it is a record of neglect and wasted days. That by our actions big and small, by our neglect of little cares and duties, we have created a past full of broken relationships, hurt words, and missed opportunities.
As I sat in my curled up ball of pain, I could not help but wonder how sad it would be to reach my last day and look back upon my life and realize that the world was no better off for my existence. And that neither friend nor family would feel the need to shed a tear by my grave, but would instead feel a sense of relief that I was gone. That was not the kind of life record that I wanted to meet.
The more I pondered this troubling question, the more I realized that taking some time here and there to reflect upon the course of our life is necessary. It is good to take a few minutes here and there to consider the vast quantity of words that spill so easily from our racing tongues to see if they are of a nature that uplifts those around us, or the type that rips apart the tender hearts of those we love.
That it is important to routinely look at the road of life to determine if it is the right road. Or else how will I know if I am traveling a path that will make me as useful as I can be or one that is tending to a cold selfishness that has no concern for anything but self-gratification?
It is from these thoughts and questions, as I asked myself where was I going, what type of character was I building, that this simple poem was inspired. I hope that you not only enjoy this humble poem, but that it is inspires you to take a few minutes to examine your life to determine if you are creating the legacy of life that will bring a smile to your face or one that will cause you to shed tears of sorrow.