I’ve been stuck home sick with a head cold today. I hate being sick! This morning I even tried to talk myself into being well enough to go to work but when I literally watched my temperature rise on my face while putting my make-up on I had to admit defeat and get back into my jarmies.
Did I mention I hate being sick? I hate it with an absolute passion! It may just be a head cold but being sick is boring, boring, boring!!! Can’t breathe, sore head, no energy, nose running, sneezing like it was an Olympic sport and just feeling slow and yuk! Hate it! And being stuck on the couch watching day time TV – it almost makes me feel worse! Even with the Olympics on there’s nothing to watch!
And then there’s missing out on life while confined to the house. Like right now I’m supposed to be out to dinner with my work colleagues celebrating the success of 18 months of hard work but no, this cold has me stuck to the couch and the most exciting thing I’ve done today (other than writing this) is feeling light-headed while trying to get ready for work this morning.
Yes, I’m a grumpy sick person, I know. Yet at times like this I get a little tap on my shoulder and am reminded of a time in high school when I fell over playing netball and badly injured both my knees. It left me sore and hobbling for over a few weeks. I was slow. Life was difficult and I couldn’t do the things I wanted. During this time I walked slower than my classmate Chris. Chris used to be a healthy aspiring athlete until being hit by a car while riding his bicycle. Now he was twisted and disabled but lucky to be alive. Yet the accident had left him permanently slow, missing out and needing help. A bit like I felt with busted knees. I had a small taste of his reality that week.
So now, when I become grumpy sick Gail, the Holy Spirit reminds me that my short-term sickness is nothing to whine about compared to the suffering of others.
This leads me to Bear Grylls. At the strong recommendation of a friend I’ve watched a few episodes of Man vs Wild before reading her copy of his autobiography Mud, Sweat and Tear last weekend. Bear is a very lucky man who was born for adventure. No one can argue his ability to survive in the most extreme and dangerous locations in the world. He is called an ultimate survivor by many.
It’s clear Bear has great wilderness survival and endurance skills. Yet there are many thousands of others whose survival and endurance skills far outstrip Bear’s. People who will never be famous.
The people I’m thinking of are those whose survival and endurance tests last for years or decades or even a life time. The mother of a child whose deformed limbs confine him to a wheelchair. The husband of a woman trapped by schizophrenia. The full-time caring child of a parent disoriented by dementia and weakened by cancer. Teens whose lives came to a crashing holt due to a drunk stranger turning every single daily function into a test of patience, endurance and reliance on others.
These people don’t just miss a day or two of work and a fun night out with friends. These heroes will often forgo their chosen career, their personal dreams and lives to care for their family member. Not for a day or a week, but for a life time.
Jesus said “No greater love has this, than a man lay down his life for his friend.” To die for a friend takes a moment. It’s a huge sacrifice but a short-term cost. Choosing to put aside your life to take care of a friend with disabilities or chronic illness, that is a long-term sacrifice. That is laying down your life for a friend, your living life. The ultimate sacrifice. The ultimate test of endurance and survival.
While I’d admire the exploits of Bear Grylls and his ability and determination to endure extraordinary things, I can’t help but admire carers more. When he goes out for an adventure Bear knows that there is an end date to his survival test. He knows, that should he survive, he has a loving family and good life to return to. Carers don’t know how long their endurance test will go for. And they know that there is only one end to their survival adventure – death, for them or their loved one. Not a nice end to a sacrifice like this.
So as I sit on my couch, about to go and have more cold medicine (knowing this luxury is unaffordable to billions of mankind), I’m reminded that I should be very thankful. Thankful that I’m not permanently trapped by a disability or illness myself. Thankful that this cold will be almost forgotten in a day or two. Thankful that at this time in my life I’m not called to lay down my life for a friend and be a carer.
You can’t be thankful and grumpy at the same time. So I chose to be thankful, even in my boredom.
To all the thousands of carers whose love drives them to extraordinary feats of endurance and survival – thank you!