It 's taken me over a week to finally have the energy, courage, and strength to get this blog post written. After all, it's been quite the week. First, there was the devastation that Hurricane Sandy caused to the entire Eastern coast. Thousands are still without power, shelter, or basic needs. Then, there was the 2012 election - an energy all of its own in this country. Finally, there was our own personal family crisis: this last week, my mother was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Because of so many other factors related to her health, we were told that we could maybe slow it down, but we couldn't stop it. My heart plummeted into my stomach. BOOM! Suddenly, everything became different.
It felt like something out of a movie. We went into the doctor's office first thing Monday morning of last week to get the devastating news - this is how long you have to live....maybe more, maybe less. We should assess quality of life, not just quantity. How can we make you more comfortable in this whole process?
And before we knew it, my mother had to be admitted to the hospital because her blood numbers were so dangerously low. Her cough was too suspect. She couldn't eat, she couldn't breathe. It was not good.
My father and I have been alternating days and nights staying at the hospital to help care for my mother. Shes been in for 10 days now. My grandmother, aunt, uncle, brother, sister-in-law, niece and nephew all came into town this last weekend. We're all hugging each other extra tightly, saying things we've never said to one another before (and we're not a shy bunch), shedding tears together, and working as hard as we can to support her and support each other. We were never the kind of family to take much for granted, but right now, the gift of time is in our faces and we aren't going to lose a minute of it.
I've been thinking a lot about the Mi Sheberach prayer this last week. As a rabbi, I often remind my congregants that we are not only praying for those who are ill and in need of recovery, but we are also praying for the doctors and nurses that help to make our loved ones healthy, and the caregivers that support the sick day in and day out. As I was thinking of this, suddenly it hit me. That's me. I'm in need of a little strength, comfort, and prayer too - suddenly I have become a caregiver, helping my very sick mother to be more comfortable and help her be as healthy as possible, while trying to keep her spirits high and the hope of miracles alive. Of course my mother needs to be at the forefront of prayers - praying for comfort and strength for her. But my family and I could use a little prayer too - we too are in need of comfort, strength, support, and love.
This is not easy for me to say. Part of the reason I became a rabbi is because I enjoy caring for others and find it hard to often accept it, myself. It's more comfortable for me to focus on you than for you to focus on me. Plus, I'm pretty independent, pretty self-sufficient, and pretty accustomed to being strong - both for myself and others.
But, right now, I'm a mess. My mother is laying in the hospital bed next to me on oxygen, dialysis, and light chemo (in order to alleviate some of the difficult symptoms she is experiencing right now - not to try and cure it) and we don't know what each day will bring. There are good days and there are bad days. But the constants in our life haven't wavered. Those of you who have texted, called, emailed, sent notes/cards and brought us food - we are so grateful to you and feel so supported by your love and friendship. Truthfully, that has really helped sustain us.
And our faith has helped sustain us as well: a visit from our Rabbi here in Indiana who offered words of prayer and comfort. The Jewish songs my mother asked me to sing in her room as she received her first chemo treatment. And the prayer for healing. Mi Sheberach - may the one who blessed our ancestors, bless us and heal us now.
When everything changes in a moment, we must cling to one another, to our Judaism and be strong enough to say , "I need a little extra strength and support right now." No matter what the future brings, we can always count on these things to sustain us.
If you are the praying type, my mother's name is Sharon Wood. She could certainly use your thoughts and prayers. Come to think of it, so could I.