Thursday, November 1, 2007

Inspiration from Christopher Reeve & Katie

I have been thinking about the actor Christopher Reeve lately. I've read a few of his/his wife's books. He wasn't my favorite actor, but I really grew to admire him after his injury. He never gave up hope, and his efforts to make progress, to stay as fit as possible and try to walk again. He went through many stages of grief after the accident. I recall something he said, to the effect that he had a choice of what his attitude to his situation would be. That he knew that if he became a "depressed hulk in a wheelchair" it would make things much worse for his family and for himself. I have been thinking about this in light of the fact that in this part of the world, we live with the illusion that we can control much more than we actually can. We are faced with so many choices every day, even as small as which type of peanut butter to buy (creamy or crunchy? Natural or with additives? Large or small?). This variety of choices tends to wear me out. However, I like to think that I have the ability and the privilege to choose...

But here is a catch: this habit of choice tends to lead to the belief that we have a right to choose. Sometimes we have; sometimes the right is only to decide how we will face something that we didn't choose. Christopher Reeve did not choose to become paralyzed at the height of his mental and physical fitness, in the prime of his life; he was able to choose how he faced it. Katie did not choose to become ill and die; I did not choose to have my daughter taken out of my life. The fact of the matter is that we were not given the power to make things work out the way we wanted them to; we tried as hard as we could to save Katie's life, but she died anyway. We must accept that. Katie faced her illness with humor, a bit of anger, a bit of fear, a lot of courage and strength, and the tools she had at hand. She faced her death the same way. Now, I get to decide how I will face my life without her presence.

Some days, I want to fight, like a mother bear whose cub has been threatened and taken. I want to fight against accepting that I did not get to decide how this turned out; I accepted everything short of this result. I adjusted to all of the hardships that were thrown at us, but I would not allow defeat into my mind; I held onto hope. Now, I just want to say, "Show me who did this, and I will shred him, tear him apart, limb from limb, and annihilate him." Of course, there is no one to blame except the disease itself. When I am in fight mode, I feel cut off from comfort. It seems that the most comfort comes when I can humbly sit with God and say, "I need Your help. Please help me today." But some days, even though I know it does no good, I still feel like fighting. This does not seem to lead to healing.

I want to choose to live with this with grace and good humor, and to see God make something, create something, out of it. I have hope for what His/Her creativity can do. I do not believe that anything can compensate me for this loss. Nothing can fill a Katie-shaped hole except Katie. But if I try to put my energy toward acceptance with love, with gentleness, perhaps it will be better for me and those around me. I believe that Christopher Reeve accomplished more, and inspired more people, after his injury than in all of his able-bodied accomplishments. Perhaps I can learn to live with my brokenness in a meaningful and loving way, too; I pray that I can.

My doctor recently asked me how I was coping, and if Katie had given me any instructions before she passed away. I thought for a minute, and told her that we had discussed Dana Reeve's passing last year, and that I told Katie that I thought she died of a broken heart after her husband, Chris, passed; I believed that she missed him so much that she became ill. At that time, Katie told me, "Mom, if I die, don't do that." The doctor said, in effect, "I guess you have no choice," indicating that Katie had given me my "marching orders." I haven't felt like giving up, but it was a reminder of Katie's clear sense of direction & her spirit.

The ovens have been fixed and the microwave was replaced. We are still awaiting parts for the dryer. I have heard from more than one person that after someone passes, things break down (thanks for sharing this, Meril and Karen T.). Our house is only 7 and a half years old; maybe it just feels the way I do: a bit broken. We need to be willing to do alot of things in a different way, in order to live with the brokenness.

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