When I was in my early twenties, my immediate family was on rocky ground. My father, who'd passed away a few brief years earlier, left my mother's life in a shambles. We were all young, between 18 and 9 years of age. My youngest brother had little or no influence from men in his life as my older brother moved away from home a few months after my father's death. My grandfather, who lived next door, passed away one year after my Dad. My sisters and I were dealing with boyfriends, proms, birthdays, graduation and significant occasions in our lives without a father. The brother who was left was just a kid himself, having to shoulder the burden of being 'the man' in the family all alone.
My mother, only 41 years old, was a widow with 6 children, a full time job, a mortgage, a diabetic daughter and the grief of losing her very best friend.
"Its too much," I thought. The grief, the loneliness and the pain, those of us left behind had to endure. I decided then and there, my life would never burden a husband, or children in such a way as my father's death crushed us in those early years.
When I fell in-love with Erik, I told him of my concerns. I was blind, in poor health and my doctors told me I probably wouldn't live beyond the age of 35. Erik never even blinked at this revelation.
"I'd rather spend what ever time we have together than the rest of my life without you," he said.
His faith and vision have been the buoy I've clung to for the last 17 years. As of April, 2014, the burden of my precarious health as eased because of the pancreas transplant. I knew from the time we were married, Erik bore burdens I didn't comprehend. The financial responsibility to work over 12 hours a day. The load of knowing he will surely be left alone early in his life. The weight of having to be both father and mother after I'm gone. An overwhelming sense of failure because he couldn't be everywhere doing everything when I was hospitalized and our children were young. The enormous amount of faith, his only life line, to get him through failed transplants, recoveries that made my health worse instead of better. The long nights when he didn't know if he'd seen me for the last time. The brutal days when every phone call held the promise of catastrophe at the other end of the line. My ring tone on his phone was an ambulance siren. My obituary was always being written in the back, and at times, in the front of his mind.
My children have had Halloween in the hospital. Birthdays around Dr.'s appointments. The first weeks of school alone, field trips by themselves because mom wasn't strong enough. My oldest son wonders if I'm Okay every time he hears a siren. My youngest son, worries about me walking around by myself and falling in a hole. Zack, my little knight-in-shining-Armour, asks me constantly if I'm Okay?
Even as I write this, I'm beginning to understand the burden I have placed on the people I love most.
When I thanked Erik for bearing my burdens, he told me..."It hasn't been that bad." He believes that with all his heart.
If you give a small child a stone to carry, it isn't long before it becomes a natural part of their stance and stride. With each added stone, their burden makes them strong until they no longer consider it a burden. It's possible that my guys have just gotten used to their burdens. Thinking about the weight I've felt lifted from my shoulders after the transplant and the hope and faith I feel from them reminds me. Our burdens, are collectively lighter because we carried them together. Not just Erik and I, or Erik and I and our kids. Each of you have carried a little with your love, your prayers, your help and your thoughts in our behalf. My burdens at the time of my father's death were not lighter because I got used to them. My father has been gone for more than 25 years and the empty place in my soul is still just as empty. The days, weeks and times I lost and my family lost are still gone. None of that changed because we got used to it. Time heals all wounds, but not by itself. What we do with our time heals our hearts and minds. What we allow Christ to do with our weaknesses, failings, heartaches and disappointments is where healing comes from. If we fill our time with bitterness, anger, hatred, or resentment then we are filled with a weight we cannot escape. If we fill ourselves with His light, love and comfort. there is no burden which is a heavy load. His perfect hands lift it and carry it for us. Your burdens are meant to bring you strength and wisdom, but in the end...
Our burdens are meant to be lifted from our shoulders by The Savior. Only he can truly make them light.