In times of crisis, when people ask, "How can I help?" I sometimes think what they really mean is: "I have a very specific way I think I can help you. I hope it's what you need, because I'm not willing to do more than what I have in mind."
I have a handful of fabulous gal pals who each check in on me every few days or so to see if I want to have lunch or dinner, because that it what I told them I need. I suspect I have an entire Relief Society of women who think I don't want help, or that I haven't asked for it because I've specifically turned down meals. I'm rarely home. My children are rarely home. Meals fill the limited space in my refrigerator and go bad before anyone at home thinks they might be hungry. This means meals brought to us cause more trouble than if no meals are brought to us. I've been grateful for the three meals anonymously slipped into my fridge, but most of it went straight into the trash because it went bad after I had a serving or two.
I've been asked what I need, so I think a list is in order:
(1) Flowers. Fresh-cut from a garden, store-bought, picked from a field—I don't care about origins, I simply long for the cheerfulness of blossoms in my house. Mr. PNU picked flowers for me all the time. He bought me a couple of bouquets. We cut them together. Flowers in my home symbolize a season of regeneration. That is the miracle I'm praying for each day.
(2) Letters/notes in the mail. Bills and notices from the state are pouring in to my mailbox. I adore mail. It is terribly old-fashioned, but it makes me incredibly happy.
(3) Poetry. I must have poetry in my life. I will be attending SFYS once a week as an outlet. I plan to try and write more lines, maybe even make it to the readings sponsored by Rock Canyon Poets. I also deeply appreciate poems passed along by like-minded lovers of language.
(4) Friendly visits at my house. I am largely a single parent again. The worst part about belonging to this demographic is the social isolation. I love people. I make it a point to pray daily that my home is a refuge and a place of comfort and love to all who walk through my front doors. Come. Visit me and tell me about your life. I want your company. After marrying Mr. PNU, loneliness was something I never thought I'd have to battle. There is so much emptiness since his stroke. So many rooms of joy to fill with other people.
(5) Usefulness. I NEED to serve. Let me know what I can do for YOU.
(6) Understanding. Love means we give people room to feel and acknowledge their emotions. Sometimes I think people mean well when they try to cheer those in crisis. The motive doesn't translate well through the invalidation. When Jesus reached Mary and Martha to find their brother Lazarus dead, he didn't say, "Everything happens for a reason." or "You'll be blessed by this trail." or "Just stay positive." He wept. Although he knew he had the power to raise his dead friend, although he did, first, Jesus Christ experienced grief with and compassion for his friends. He didn't correct them in their anger and frustration. He listened and he wept.
(7) I need to be allowed to go through this trial in human ways without judgement. Somewhere in the strange order of the universe, I've managed to fall in line with more tragedy than most people I know. I'm not diminishing anyone else's struggles, but I promise, repeat crisis and hardship effects a person deeply. I've learned to accept that processing loss, grief, and trauma is messy. I've also figured out coping mechanisms that work for me. This doesn't mean they'll work for you, or that the way I cope is going to make you feel comfortable. But when we give each other space to feel out the edges of human experience, trial of this nature tends to bind people together. Pressing those who are dealing with hardship into prescribed constraints of "correct" behavior or reaction has the opposite effect.
(8) Accept that I'm not shutting anyone out, but I don't have a lot of room to extend my energies. It does me good, gives me energy, when others take the time to let me know they care without expecting anything in return. I've been bombarded with Facebook friend requests from strangers for two weeks. I've allowed people into that part of my life, where naturally I'm very selective about the people I share my life with and quite private. Understand that if you find yourself removed from my friendlist it isn't because I don't wish for your interest in my husband's struggle. Read his blog, please. Continue to send him words of encouragement. But I need to retreat back into my private little shell in order to deal with the grief, pain, and difficulty of loss that, today, feels worse than if I'd experienced a death.