Once again this week I found myself thinking about how I am living out dreams that many others I knew or knew of couldn’t do.
No, I’m not a famous author or photographer or a famous anything. I don’t have throngs of fans or tons of money. I’m a simple homeschooling mom who writes some stories and self-publishes them (and sometimes feels a bit silly doing it.).
But I’ve started to try to look at it as I have been given the opportunity to write and blog, take photos of my family, and teach my kids at home. I “get” to do all this. I don’t “have” to write or teach my kids – I’ve been given the gift of being able to do so.
I’ve been given a gift that many others never had the opportunity to have.
Saturday afternoon I was at a memorial service for a woman who spent a large part of her adult life in a nursing home – not because she was old but because Lyme Disease stole her life from her.
She wasn’t there of her own free will.
In fact, someone essentially incarcerated her there because he didn’t want to take care of her.
She spent the next 20 years deteriorating physically and mentally. Her mother tried to get doctors to care for her, to find out what was going on and why this was happening and eventually, doctors did feel they found the cause. The only problem was they had no idea how to stop it.
What was happening to this young woman also happened to her brother. Both of them suffered from damage to the brain from Lyme Disease, but doctors couldn’t figure out why they were the only family members it had affected this way.
Genetic testing was even done and not many answers came from that.
The brother, Gary, passed away a few years ago. He was in his 40s. Mechelle passed away a month ago in her early 50s. She caught an infection that her body couldn’t fight off.
She spent most of her life in a bed, watching her children grow up and have children of their own and then eventually she didn’t see much of at least one of those children who refused to see her before she died or come to her memorial service. Any dreams she might have had for her life were gone even before her life was physically gone.
It was heartbreaking to hear about it because I never visited Mechelle in that home. I feel awful but she was older than me, I didn’t know her well, and there was a lot of family drama that left me unsure of what I should be involved with and what I shouldn’t.
Mechelle and Gary had their lives cut short. They couldn’t live the way others could.
Their stories make me think of my great aunt who had mental issues and was placed in a mental home in the 1940s and never allowed to come home.
I’m not sure what my grandmother’s sister actually had but some said it was schizophrenia. She wrote letters begging to come back home but the family didn’t know how to care for her. They were also afraid she’d hurt my dad, who was a baby at the time. Not that she would hurt him on purpose, but when she had her breaks, I would guess, she didn’t think clearly and may have accidentally hurt him.
I believe having their daughter committed was very hard on my great-grandparents and maybe it was a guilt they lived with for their entire lives.
My grandmother’s sister died in state care sometime in the 1990s. I can’t even imagine it. Over 50 years living in a mental hospital, then a care home when the state shut down the mental hospitals – not with family or those you were familiar with and definitely no chance to live a somewhat normal life.
My grandmother and the rest of the family did visit Onieta and my aunt was there when she died, holding her hand, but my heart breaks when I think of the life she didn’t get to live – either because of actual mental illness or because doctors simply didn’t know how to help her back then.
When I get down about my life and think things along the line of how boring or plain it is, I try to remind myself of Onieta, Mechelle and Gary, and even my aunt Dianne who suffered from heartbreak, rejection and health issues for her entire life.
I think how I’m lucky and how I’m able to explore and pursue my dreams, despite some health and financial limitations.
I may never be famous (gosh, I hope I’m not. I like my quiet life.), rich, or popular, but I’m blessed and lucky and I have the freedom to pursue what I love to do in life.
I have to stop squandering that opportunity – the gift God has given me.
No, not the gift of writing or creativity, or being a parent, but the gift of freedom that others either didn’t have or didn’t have for very long.