Persons, places and things: Impact of illness


By Barb Arland-Fye

Barb Arland-Fye

My husband Steve usually accompanies me to the Stations of the Cross followed by soup supper at our parish when he’s not working as a locomotive engineer.
But for the first Friday of Lent, Steve stayed home because of a virus that seemed to be assaulting his colon. He’d been sick all week, but after a doctor’s visit Steve thought his illness might be winding down. An hour before we were to be at church, the virus knocked Steve for a loop. I went to church alone, worried, because Steve has never been this sick in our nearly 27 years of marriage.
As a small group of us at Our Lady of the River Church in LeClaire read our parts for each station, based on reflections taken from “Everyone’s Way of the Cross” by Clarence Enzler, I couldn’t help but dwell on the fourth station: Jesus Meets His Mother. The assembly responds:
“My Jesus, Lord, I know what you are telling me. To watch the pain of those we love is harder than to bear our own. To carry my cross after you, I, too, must stand and watch the sufferings of my dear ones — the heartaches, sicknesses and grief of those I love. And I must let them watch mine, too. I do believe – for those who love you all things work together unto good.”
More than once in the last 10 days I’ve told Steve I wished there was something I could do to ease his discomfort. In small ways, perhaps I am.
He’s always enjoyed the domestic role in our household, cooking, baking, grocery shopping and doing laundry. I’ve assumed some of those responsibilities, at least temporarily. The biggest one to date: making oatmeal raisin cookies for the soup supper that follows Stations of the Cross. Everyone in our parish knows Steve bakes the best oatmeal raisin cookies this side of heaven. How could I duplicate the master? I attempted to follow his recipe, but he kept interfering, wanting to take control. That’s why I forgot to put raisins in the first batch that went into the oven and had to start over!
Steve has always been attentive when I’ve been sick: going to the grocery store to get whatever I need and preparing whatever might make me feel better. Now the roles have been reversed. I’ve been running back and forth to the grocery store picking up a prescription, Gatorade and the bland foods the doctor ordered.
The rhythms of our daily life have shifted subtly, and that’s been a little unsettling for the family. Our older son Colin missed seeing dad at Saturday night Mass and going out with him for dinner on Sunday at our favorite restaurant — both long-standing traditions our autistic son treasures. He assured me he can handle the change, but he asked if his dad would be with us at Mass next Saturday.
Our family remembers that four years ago during Lent Steve’s dad died of cancer; I suspect the memory of Bill’s death is a factor in our sense of unease.
That makes the conclusion of our Stations of the Cross reflection all the more meaningful:
“… Accept each moment as it comes to you, with faith and trust that all that happens has my mark on it. A simple fiat, this is all it takes; a breathing in your heart, ‘I will it, Lord.’ So seek me not in far-off places. I am close at hand. Your workbench, office, kitchen, these are altars where you offer love. And I am with you there …”

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