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The Hug: Close to the Brokenhearted

Adrian Ludwig Richter [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I am, apparently, a very slow learner.

Intellectually, I understand the fundamental changes that are happening in my day-to-day life as a result of my mother's declining health. I am growing increasingly effective at centering my days around the many tasks that need to happen to support her and Daddy while I'm here in Mississippi for an extended period of time.

But emotionally, I wake up multiple times each night and absolutely every morning feeling crushed and overwhelmed.

I'm sorry for the raw honesty. I don't pen these words to ask anyone to "solve" our situation. I simply write them because this is where I am in this moment and writing, apparently, is my "therapy". Even as I write those words, the Type A in me has just paused for a moment to write on her to-do list "Find therapy".

Last night, I had a quiet evening with Mom. Truth be told, she may not even remember I was with her for those hours because she spent most of them sleeping. But there was a tender moment during our time together when she awoke from a deep sleep, disoriented and confused and scared. Her words, as they often do in these moments, turned immediately to the Hail Mary. Unsure of what to do, I simply knelt in front of her recliner chair and took her in my arms and prayed along with her. That hug felt wonderful to me, a small consolation in my overwhelming grief at the physical and emotional pain Mom has to endure each day.

Consolation for those who care amidst life's pain: Psalm 34: The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; and those who are crushed in spirit he saves. What gives you hope and consolation? Click To Tweet

Eventually, and probably too quickly, I turned back into systems mode. I pulled myself out of the hug, helped Mom dress for bed, brushed her teeth, slipped her between her sheets, and prayed over her. Turning out her bedroom lights, I snuck out the door in a way that reminded me of those long-ago nights when I would spend hours trying to put two-years-olds to bed.

"Please, Father," I begged silently, "Help her rest."

The feel of Mom's hug was tucked away for the night, but it rose up again this morning as I prayed over the words of today's liturgy of the word, and particularly Psalm 34:

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted;
and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.
Many are the troubles of the just man,
but out of them all the LORD delivers him.

In so many ways, we are a brokenhearted people.

The world around us is filled with poverty, political strife, and too much personal despair to overcome. The load of all of that pain can and will bury us if we permit it to take power. Yet the hope we have--the hope to which I cling increasingly these days--is that we are never alone. Not only do we have a Creator who loves us unconditionally. We also have one another. Last night, upon my return to my parents' house, I found a beautiful card written to me by a friend. Her simple note of encouragement reminded me how brave this friend has been in recent weeks when confronted with her own health struggles. Yet somehow, in the midst of that, she found time to write me a beautiful word of encouragement and consolation.

Many are the troubles, but also many are the blessings. Perhaps this journey I'm on with Mom is meant to help me focus more intentionally on those simple moments of pure consolation so that I can offer them more generously to others in my life.

Perhaps that hug is meant to be cherished for as long as it lasts, and then passed along.

Image credit: Adrian Ludwig Richter [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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