Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Dear Sister Bell

Dear Sister Bell,

Remember us? The Young family? We’re the ones with the not-so-reverent kids who sat on the bench next to you in sacrament meeting every Sunday for four years. We haven’t seen you for a year or two now since we moved, but we still remember you well—even our little ones. You probably remember Benjamin. Remember when I told you one Sunday that Benjamin had asked us that week if Sister Bell was the tooth fairy? You always had such a sweet smile for us, and my children did not know many elderly people in Pocatello. Benjamin’s guess seemed very logical to me.

I’ve been thinking a lot about you lately. You see, I’ve had a tough few months with my health. First it was a chronic, lingering exhaustion with a few other weird symptoms. We finally got that diagnosed as mononucleosis. Then, last week, I had sinus surgery, which has been harrowing to say the least. My recovery from both of these things has been very difficult and uncomfortable. At times I have cried out to God desperately in search of some peace.

At these times I think about you. I know that you have extreme pain from your arthritis. I know that you have it every single day, and that you had it all the years that we knew you, and probably many years before that. I watched you hobble into church with your cane and your beautiful smile. It was several months before I dared ask you how you were feeling each Sunday, because I already knew you were always in pain, and I didn’t want you to have to talk about it if you didn’t want to. You never lied (and I appreciate that), but you always managed to sort of wave off the subject and ask me about myself instead.

These long weeks that I have been so uncomfortable I have thought about the daily battle you had with pain. You did not have, as I do, the prospect that you would get relief in a matter of weeks or months. Your only release, you knew, was death. How did you continue to smile? Where did you get your peaceful spirit, moment to moment? How did you manage to live, instead of wishing your time away until you could be released, as I find myself doing?

I just wanted to tell you again that you blessed our lives, and are still blessing mine every time I think of you. I hope you are finding beautiful moments of peace and joy in spite of your pain. I hope that I can become like you, with your radiant face full of gratitude and love instead of impatience and self-concern. Thank you for your sweet example.

Love, Darlene Young


M said...

Darlene, this is Emily from the AML conference. The people I have known who endure chronic pain are mostly like your Sister Bell: they have learned to be happy and uncomplaining, to deflect questions about their health so that they can spare people from having to listen to everything that's wrong. I saw it with my mother and still see it with my father-in-law. It reminds me of Elder Maxwell--"rather than simply passing through our trials, we must allow them to pass through us in ways that sanctify us."

I think knowing my mother-in-law and seeing her strength has helped me when I've faced health challenges. She had diabetes, and died from complications of it. She lived with us the last two years of her life, so I watched her daily struggle with keeping her sugars regulated, with pain from her neuropathy, with her gradually failing kidney, with fatigue. She did not murmur. When I got gestational diabetes with my most recent pregnancy, I found a lot of strength in her example. I knew how important it was to follow the diet, and I realized that if she could test her sugars nine or ten times a day, four was doable for me. She strengthened me because of the way she endured.

I am trying to think of a good way to end this comment, something along the lines of "good luck with your own sanctifying process," but that sounds too dismissive. But maybe there will be people, your children or husband or family, who look at the way you endure this particular trial and draw strength from your example, just like you were blessed by Sister Bell and I was blessed by my husband's mother. Merry Christmas.--Emily

Darlene said...

Thanks, Emily. I know this is the growing experience I needed right now, and that I will benefit immensely if I can learn how to find some peace during this time.