Sunday, May 15, 2011

May 15, 2011: Transformation Through Tragedy

Yesterday's food:

God time? Yes
Exercise? Nope, Sunday is my day off :-)
+[P] Beef and bean burrito
[P] Tuna salad
[V] Cole slaw
[V] Green beans
[V] Celery (in tuna salad)
[F] Cantaloupe
[F] Cantaloupe
[F] X
[St] Kashi
[St] Rice noodles (in tuna salad)
*[D] Chobani yogurt
[D] Skim milk
[D] Sour cream
[D] Skim milk
[Sn] SF Klondike bar
[Sn] SF Klondike bar
[W] Three cups including tea w/ creamer)

I recently encountered a tragedy that befell someone to whom I made amends, in a letter, about a year ago. It was a tragedy for my friend, for her husband, and for me. I'm not going to give you all the gory details, but I had treated this friend badly in my ignorance and lack of self-awareness. My neglect of her had occurred more than 20 years ago, when I was literally broken by lupus cerebritis, recovering from my abusive alcoholic upbringing, had not yet started working the Al-Anon program, and way before I became a Christian. In short, I was selfish, unable to identify yet alone handle my strong emotional life, had no moral compass, was easily overwhelmed, and had no boundaries. Due to a series of unfortunate events and my inability to identify and share my emotions, I "chose" to sever our deep and fun multi-year friendship, abruptly, over the phone. I gave no explanation. I just said, "I don't want to be friends anymore" and hung up.

Many years passed before I attempted closure of our bad ending, and I called my friend to apologize. She said to me, "I think I deserve an explanation." She did, but I didn't even understand my own behavior at that time. I told her that and said I would give her an explanation when I knew what is was. She knew I has been in therapy for most of my life and so would eventually tease it out of the swampy depths of my soul.

I did tease it out, and offered her my explanation in a heartfelt letter. Unbeknownst to me, she must have told her new husband (at the time I ditched our friendship) of my behavior, and she was later was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease). He intercepted my letter and chose to withhold it from her to spare her further pain. He didn't know I was working a program and providing the explanation my friend had requested. She subsequently died, a couple of weeks after her 51st birthday, on April 6, 2011. I know this because he wrote me a letter, which I received just last weekend, in which he reamed me out for what I had done to his wife. He completely misunderstood my letter and had carried anger toward me for nearly a year before he wrote back to me. So, I had deeply hurt not one person but two.

How is this a tragedy for anyone other than my friend? It's a tragedy for her husband, who does not know that he withheld information from his wife that might have soothed her, not harmed her. I want to tell him that, but I think it would hurt him further, so my program forbids it. I can only assume that he did the best thing he could at the time, but I feel sad that he carried anger at me for so long. It's a tragedy for me because I was robbed of the opportunity for the closure that I had hoped for as well as missed an opportunity to serve God by ministering to someone with whom I had previously enjoyed a deep connection. She must have lost a lot of control over her body, and although I don't necessarily have a death sentence with lupus as she did with ALS, I do know what it is like to lose control over my body in encroaching increments. I believe that I could have offered her much understanding and helped her process her emotions.

How am I attempting to transform this tragedy into something loving and good? Here is where my connection with Jesus has taken me in just one week since I received notice of my friend's death:

1. The fruits of peace and self-control: I am not angry at the content of the letter I received, and I understand my friend's husband's anger at me. Normally I would have shot off a nasty letter back to him, but I have had no desire to do so.

2. The fruits of kindness and love: I am praying for my friend's family and for the words and opportunity to respond to her husband in love, with no trace of defensive or hurtful language.

3. The fruit of faithfulness: I am praying and waiting on God's direction for me in this situation instead of thinking I can figure it out on my own.

4. The fruit of self-control: I did not self-soothe with food over this tragic news. Normally I would have eaten right away without understanding the connection between my emotions and food. Later I would have eaten and actually said to myself, "I need to stress eat." Now I don't have to eat at all. I poured my heart out to a Christian sister instead and received love, prayer, empathy, and counsel.

5. The fruit of faithfulness: I believe there is a huge life lesson for me in this situation and am open to receiving it from God, even if it causes me to feel more pain.

I don't know where God is going to carry me in all of this, but I know His will won't take me where His grace can't keep me. Thanks for letting me share this with you.

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