Monday, 22 June 2009

Life lessons

I have not had much time to write lately, I have been too busy learning some big life lessons. I have been exhausted and stressed, but I have also been getting glimpses of what life really is about and of what matters.

The biggest lessons and the most important ones, I am receiving, predictably, from my mum and dad. I am lucky to be here to witness how my dad is dealing with cancer, pain and the loss of so many things. To witness how my mum can help him. And also to witness how life goes on for everyone else, no matter what is happening on a personal level.

Lesson number 1: Pain and fear.
My father has been in extreme pain for about 6 months. Not on and off pain. Not the sort of pain you can sleep and forget. The kind of pain that cannot be treated and that has been with him 24/7. When he was in hospital for the second (or was it the third time) I went to see him one night and make sure he was well enough to sleep. I found him in agony. The level of pain was so high that an epidural, morphine and Tramadol were of no help. He was crying and clenching his teeth in bed and asking God 'why me'. It was hard to see and not knowing what to do I called his doctor, at home, despite the late hour. He was pleased to hear me and he told me that if he had the pains my father has endured he would have killed himself 6 months ago. He then sent the anaesthitist to give him something else. He eventually drifted into a sleep and I left, shaken yet relieved.
My dad is very strong, yet now, after his last surgery, which promises to be the one to make him better, he is extremely scared of pain. As an endurance athlete we learn to work with pain and to block it out, yet in my father, who has lived with it for the last few months, I saw a fear of pain. When we went in to take some of his stitches out today, I could see in his eyes he was so scared of hurting. He begged the doctor not to hurt him and cried, saying he could not take any more pain. I wonder if we are made to only be able to endure a certain level before being scared of it. I wonder if this fear will go away as he forgets. And I wonder if there are pain levels we simply cannot embrace.
The lesson is his resilience. His courage and his bravery in dealing with all that is happening. His nerve, his dreams and his will to have a normal life. Yes, he is tired. Yes, he has been in pain. But he is still able to laugh, to dream and to make plans to take us out on his boat when he is strong again. I only wish that the day comes soon.

Lesson 2: Love

My mum and dad had been married for 22 years before he seperated. Now, 6 years later they are back together and with a deep love and appreciation for each other that they never had before. It has been a big lesson to me, the love of that woman, my mother, towards her husband. She has told me, though she didn't need to say it as er actions are louder than words, that the most important thing is love and the people you love. She has taken care of him night and day and has given him, and that is his statement, exactly what he has needed. She has given him strength and courage when he had none. And I can see their deep love for each other in everything they do.
As my marriage begins, I not only hope, but I strongly believe, that we too can keep perspective in our relationship and in our life. We don't sweat the small stuff, but feel grateful for the gift of life and love (it sounds corny, but I strongly believe in that). And that is the present my parents gave me and my husband on our wedding day.

Lesson 3: Teaching and learning

I have always maintained that I learn from my pupils. Children have a resilience that I envy and a thirst for life that rejuvenates me. I consider myself lucky to be able to do the job I do (I am a primary school teacher) and I feel privileged that these kids let me into their worlds and lives. Often they teach me how to approach life and I have wanted to write about that - an entry called happiness.
Occasionaly however, they teach me something big. I made the mistake to ask a leading question on Tuesday, obviously fishing for an answer to help me introduce a topic. The question was: 'What is the biggest present you can give somebody?' Some kids become very good at answering questions the way adults want them to and sure enough, I had several hands up. A little girl successfully gave me the answer that I was after: 'Love'. I was ready to start my "teaching" but a hand at the back was not going down. I had to ask the little girl, one of my most charismatic pupils, what she had in mind. In a small, yet certain voice, she said: 'It depends on what the other person needs'. And she is so right. 'If a person is in the desert dying of thirst, the biggest present is surely water', she continued. Think about that. Think about what the little girl of seven knew. Think about that in your every day lives, in your relationships... If only we were all a bit more aware of what others need and not just of what we want to give.

I have come out of quite a dark time with the help of those around me, my husband, my close friends, my family and the spiritual guidance of D's mum who helped me at a very difficult time. Thank you to those for knowing what to give me exactly when I needed it. The sun is shining again and I feel happy, grateful and ready to live life. My mountain bike was riden again after months of rest. :)