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Everything Within Me Wants To Escape

By: Christine Fishel

Mom and Dad are in their new apartment at the assisted living facility. More than an apartment, it’s a holding area for their transition from life on earth to life everlasting. And yet I talk with them about this new stage of their life as if it’s something to be celebrated, as if they’re teenagers who’ve just moved from the family home to their own long-awaited place.

It’s a struggle to remain upbeat when you know you’re lying.

I get a tiny taste of what they are experiencing when my mom calls me every morning to ask about the growing list of medical appointments for my dad—physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, skilled nursing care, urology. She can’t keep it straight. She has her own list of appointments at the Center for Brain Health—brain scans, mostly, to measure how much her brain has been eaten away by the neuritis plaques and neurofibrillary tangles of Alzheimer’s.

“The calendar is filled up again,” she says. I hear her desperate tone as she asks, “When do you think we’re going to be finished with all of this?”

“I know it’s hard,” I say.

“When we came here I didn’t think it was going to be like this.”

Neither did I. One day my dad had trouble walking and the next my siblings and I were on a rushed and desperate search for a new place where our parents could live together safely.

I have nothing to offer my mom to ease her anxiety except my presence. Eventually she won’t realize what is happening, and I guess it won’t hurt her so much. I guess that day will be a blessing.

I’m ashamed to say this: everything within me wants to escape.

Last week, I did escape. My daughter and I had planned almost a year ago to travel to Haiti on a mission trip. With everything going on, I hadn’t been able to think about the trip until 12 days ago, the day before we left, when I was forced to finally pack our bags. I didn’t want to go.

It turned out to be what I needed. In Haiti, I escaped fully from the reality of my current life of care-taking. I wasn’t in charge, so I did what I was told, and I laughed and played between assignments. The calluses I’d grown to protect, my raw emotions, began to heal from disuse.

I have been home three days. My emotions are now closer to the surface, and I find myself welling up at awkward moments—when I wait at the red light, as I drop off my children at school, while I stir the vegetables I’m sautéing for dinner.

I am selfish. Everything within me wants to escape. Not so much the experience of losing my parents as the pain of it. I want to counteract the pain with feelings of passion and comfort. If I focus on observing myself objectively, I see a grown-up woman with a lot of responsibilities who is a vulnerable little girl underneath. She is looking for someone to take over, to hold her, to rock her to sleep and tell her everything is going to be okay. She needs a mother. If there is no mother available for her, she’ll take a substitute.

The Lord gave me a verse the day I packed for our trip to Haiti. I had found it in my Bible and written it in the margin. Throughout the week in Haiti, I decorated it with color and embellishment. And still, I did not see the message there for me.

I see it now, three days into my return to reality.

“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.” 1 Corinthians 16:13.

Be on your guard. I see now that there is danger in vulnerability when it is offered to anything or anyone other than God. By this, I don’t mean that I cannot trust another with my vulnerable places. What I mean is that I cannot seek escape through a full schedule or a glass of wine or another human being. I must stand firm in my faith, allowing My Father to bring me the comfort I crave. I have to trust that He alone can give me what I need to keep standing in the middle of pain and agony.

I want to escape. Everything within me desires it. I crave a savior. I am grateful that my God reminds me that I already have one.

Comments(9)

  1. Reply
    Melva Miller says

    Chris, I loved reading this. You are one of the strongest loving woman I know. You are amazing and our God will give you what you need.
    I love you and your family so much. Glad you enjoyed Haiti!!!

    • Reply
      Debby Jungquist says

      Chris-
      This is beautiful… so honest and full of love. You are in my prayers!! ❤
      Love,
      Debby

      • Reply
        Christine says

        Debby,
        I’m grateful for your prayers. I know you understand. You have my prayers as well.

    • Reply
      Christine says

      Melva, your prayers were felt while we were on our trip. I can’t wait to tell you about all of it. Even our travel was filled with miraculous moments.
      I’m so grateful for your wide open heart that first loved my son and then all six of us. You mean so much to our family!

  2. Reply
    Michelle Jellison says

    For different reasons in the past year I have struggled with trying to help from what I can only describe for me as unimaginable grief.
    I scoured all over for help…ways to help myself heal from the weight of pain that tugged me into a day or two of deep depression here or there…some days I’d have an anxiety attack because it was simply too much.
    I prayed. I went to therapy, but there was still this void and helplessness at how to not just cope with the pain but to heal.
    Two of the things that were most helpful to me I want to share with you, and they go hand in hand: 1) self-compassion, and 2) mother yourself. I could go into detail, but there are websites devoted to these to concepts of helping yourself thrive in trying times, and they would do a better, more thorough job detailing the concepts. These aren’t cure-alls. I believe continuing in your faith and prayer partnered with these concepts can all work together to helping you feel these feelings of needing to get away (which I imagine are very normal feelings for a person carrying all you have on your shoulders).
    I wish you well. I am sorry you are facing this difficult time. I can’t imagine what it is like, but I have optimism.

    Also, I want to thank you for speaking out with such honestly. That takes strength and character, and you never know whose lives you may touch through sharing your own experiences. God Bless you.

    (I have met you briefly a time or two-bought lemonade when the kids were selling in Sharonville, and I know Kevin through our photography group).

  3. Reply
    Christine says

    Michelle, thank you for your very thoughtful comments. You have given me some great advice and I will definitely make an effort to do what you suggest.
    I remember the cold day you pulled up to my kids’ lemonade/ hot cocoa stand. They appreciated your support then and I appreciate it now.
    Thanks for being a light in this world that can feel so dark at times.

  4. Reply
    Mary Ellen says

    Oh my goodness. I have never read anything so raw and so powerful. Chris you are one of the most amazing women I know. I am sorry that you are experiencing all of this but I also applaud your vulnerability to share your feelings. Our challenge when we are vulnerable is that we cannot control other’s responses. There is a post on the MDM Facebook page that is so fitting. “When God pushes you to the edge of difficulty trust Him fully. Because one of two things can happen. He will either gently catch you when you fall or He will either teach you to fly.” I love you.

    • Reply
      Christine says

      Mary Ellen,
      Your encouragement and support are so very important to me. Your advice to trust God as I release myself to the edge of difficulty is what I’m reminding myself daily. I love you, too. God used you to change my life and I will forever be grateful.

  5. Reply
    Heather Wolper says

    Chris,
    How I needed this reminder today! Thank you for sharing your heart and what God is teaching you. Praying for you as you walk through this season of care taking.
    Love, Heather

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