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As I have bragged on this site before, around 6 am most mornings, my 15-year-old son brings me a mug of coffee that he brewed himself, along with a heated lavender wrap. This boy is not a naturally compassionate person like one of his brothers (known by all his acquaintances as a sweetheart and delicious individual but also one who sleeps late in the morning), but he has learned to be kind because he knows I am weak.
Let me explain.
I had always been an athlete and active person. I was on the New York State championship basketball team in high school. I played rugby for four years in college, bulking up my strength to play loose-head prop, elected captain of the team my senior year. I hike, I bike, I ski, I play tennis, swim, wakeboard, and sail. I bore six children through natural childbirth with midwives. Hear me roar!
However, in 2011, I was bitten by a teeny tiny arachnid, a black-legged tick, also known as a deer tick. I removed the tick from my hip before it was fully engorged, but about a week later I fell ill. I felt as though I had malaria, soaking my bed sheets with so much sweat they could be wrung out. I could barely move from the full-body pain. Unable to drive, I called my doctor’s office, and they prescribed antibiotics immediately, hoping to treat Lyme disease. Of course, it was the weekend, and my husband and two of my children had flown across the country to visit his grandmother who was turning 97. A friend brought me medication, and my oldest son tried to help care for his younger siblings aged nearly 2, 4, and 6 who were with me at the time.
Unfortunately for me, I had also received co-infections from the tick of ehrlichiosis, which is treatable with the antibiotics I was prescribed, and babesiosis, which was not treated at that time. I have not felt well since May 2011. I have arthritis in my joints, especially my neck, I see a cardiologist for heart problems (pulmonary hypertension), my neurologist has documented my nerve damage in both my arms, I am constantly fatigued, and I have night sweats and run fevers most days.
As a homeschooling mother of six used to very good health and only seeing the doctor for annual checkups (or as they call them today, well visits), chronic illness for the past eight years has been very difficult.
So where’s the gift in this, you might ask?
I thought I wanted to show my children a strong mother, who could do everything! Instead, they see a mother who is weak and needs help and love and tenderness. As mentioned above, my curmudgeonly 15-year-old son makes my coffee nearly every morning and delivers it to me, along with a heated lavender wrap to soothe my neck and bones and a hug. And sometimes a kiss! My children take turns to clean up the kitchen every night after dinner. They understand that when I “go to the couch,” I can’t function normally and need to stay off my feet.
My children have learned to care for me. They have learned that their mother cannot be and do everything. They are forced to be compassionate and to look for ways to help out.
They have an excellent example in their father. Papa Toad prepares me water with lime juice squeezed in it to soothe my tummy. He makes one about every 18 hours, a 16-oz cup that he leaves for me on the counter with a cover, and I drink them throughout the day. He has made me these for the past 7 years, at least, as a sign of his love and concern and desire to help me feel better, thousands of tangible examples of his love for me.
He constantly rubs my aching neck, and they do too.
He brings me wood in the winter to stoke the stove that heats the living room, where I spend much of my days. The warmth of the fire soothes my bones and keeps me from getting chilled, which I do easily.
This dedication and service are humbling to me. I would never have asked for the gift of weakness, but as a wife and a mother I see it as a gift that has made my husband and children stronger and better and given me a more humble and appreciative heart. I used to hate to ask for help, seeing it as a sign of weakness. Now I know I am weak, but as I lean into the warm support of those around me who love me, I feel how good it is to be loved. What an unexpected gift.Published in