Friday, July 30, 2010

Continuing On… late summer and fall of 2003

After the fire in August 2003 that burned part of our rangeland, we were short on pasture for the cattle. The calves were lighter than normal, due to the dry year and having to come home from the range early. The hay crop was very short, after bringing the cattle home and putting them in some of the hayfields. One bull was missing for a month, but showed up at the ranch later. He was missed in the hasty roundup and eventually came down through all the open gates.

Andrea worked hard that summer at her place to grow a nice garden, and Lynn went out there several times to help her pick and can vegetables. She stayed very busy with her 3 children—Emily was 5 by then, Charlie turned 2 in late August, and baby Samantha was becoming mobile and crawling around. That Fall Andrea was able to come out to the ranch again and ride her horse a couple times when she found someone to baby-sit the kids.

In mid-October Lynn went with Andrea to the hospital in Salt Lake, for more tests, and I kept Emily with me. Andrea was having problems with some veins in her upper chest (and collar bone area); they were swollen and blocked (one of her jugular veins has a 3 inch long blockage). This was probably aftermath from the IVs that were in there so long, during her summer in the burn ICU. The circulation had to re-route around it. She has a lot of circulatory problems; in one place on her leg a vein has become an artery because the artery was destroyed when the muscle burned away, and now it is right under her skin! It’s amazing how the body can compensate for various impairments.

She was also having chest pain and her heart was doing strange things. The doctors in Salt Lake did a lot of tests but didn't have time to do all they wanted, even though they worked her in to see several specialists that day and did tests until 6 pm. They were not able to figure out exactly what was wrong.

Five-year-old Emily stayed with me here at the ranch, and helped me do the chores and feed the weaned heifers. We had to sell Norman that fall, so Emily got to choose a heifer to replace Norman—her special pet cow. Norman was an unusual critter, named for the calf in the movie “City Slickers”. When she was born some years earlier, she was too small and tiny to survive outdoors in the cold weather, and spent the first month of her life in a cardboard box in the house, fed with a bottle. Later we gave her an adoptive mother—a young cow who had lost her own calf—but Norman never really thought of herself as a bovine. She grew up to be a good cow, but was also a family pet. She was so gentle that our grandkids could sit on her back. She ended up being Emily’s cow, so of course we had to make some kind of trade when Norman got old and had to be sold.

In November Andrea became very ill (weak and dizzy) and Emily stayed with us again while Andrea was in the hospital. The doctors never did figure out what was wrong, and finally let her go home, but we kept Em a few more days to make it easier for Andrea, who had her hands full taking care of little Charlie and baby Samantha. Em stayed with us 10 days that time, while Andrea slowly recovered from whatever it was that made her so sick. Em rode the school bus to kindergarten, and Lynn drove in to town to pick her up at noon each day.

It seemed like we simply bounced from one crisis to another that year, just as we had been doing ever since Andrea’s accident 3 years earlier. But we were able to keep it in perspective and get through it all, and at the same time try to help encourage a number of other people, including several friends who were going through worse trauma, grieving over the loss of children. One of the things I was beginning to learn through this pilgrimage/detour in our lives that began abruptly with Andrea’s burn injury was a realization and awareness of the outpouring of Love that we can open up to, through these great wounds in our soul.

As humans, our wounds are all different, but I have confidence now that the One who loves us most can heal them all. The scars are always with us, and that's not entirely a bad thing, because I think those scars remind us of the fact that we CAN be horrendously wounded, and heal. The scars can remind us that our spirits can be battered and bruised, but come through it, perhaps more focused on the One who does the healing.

So many things that were important to me before (that I thought held top priorities in my life) are not so important now, and I am glad for this. It's a sort of freedom that I didn't have before. Some of those things were heavy baggage, maybe loading me down so much that I couldn't get far enough away from them to see what's more important. Now I think I'm more able to "fly" rather than being chained to all that stuff I was dragging around. A lot of those things are still important, but not so much that I can't let go of them if necessary.

The truly important, most wonderful thing about life on this earth is the love that lifts us up from trivial cares and worries--the love that connects us with other people. The love and compassion for other people is what matters most, and is the thing that works best at getting us out of "ourselves", leaving some of that baggage behind.

Life is full of paradox. I’ve come to feel that there are no absolutes except love. To have joy, we seem to have to suffer; to really live, we must almost die. To really have life and the best appreciation and enjoyment of something, we must be prepared to give it up. There seems to be some wonderful good come from everything bad, though it can be hard to see at first.

Sometimes I think our greatest comfort, our greatest peace, comes from trying to help or comfort someone else. This is truly the connectedness that frees us from our own pain. Life is full of struggle, and it's never easy.

Without adversity or a challenge of some kind, however, many of us really don't grow in spirit; we don't mature much in our thinking, especially in relationships with other people. If things are too easy we don't seem to get past childish wants and needs. Without pain or confrontation of some sort, we don't stretch or try to overcome the challenges. Most of us have to be challenged--to reach beyond the ordinary, beyond the easy way. Often the people who do best at something are those who had to overcome handicaps to get there, and maybe the same is true in our understanding and ability to love.

It’s too easy to become satisfied with trivia and complacency. We generally don't reach beyond our own selfish little world until we’re forced to. Maybe the greatest good in tragedy or pain is that it can be the knife that shatters the wall we put around ourselves. It can peel us down to the core. And without the comfort of all the layers we've wrapped around ourselves, we have to reach for help--and in doing so learn that we can reach out to others and maybe help them, too. Seems like we really can't be helped or help someone else until we open up that protective coating of selfishness and complacency that we so readily pick up. Trauma and loss can certainly crack our shells. Then I guess it's up to us whether we grow, reaching out in fear and trembling, then finding that maybe we didn't need that shell after all.

After Andrea's accident and the jerk-around of our lives (our journey took a very different course after that), it seemed we started on a pilgrimage of discovery. Lynn and I thought we knew where we were going, we thought we knew what life was all about, but we really did not know. The abrupt new path we were thrust upon--with scary twists and turns--opened up a new dimension we really hadn't been aware of. But it took awhile to see beyond the fear and trauma. We were still novices on this new journey, but we were traveling the path with more insight, and glad for the opportunity it gave us to open our eyes, our hearts. We have been lifted up and blessed by the love we've found, and the sharing of this with other wounded souls.

For us, the experience of tragedy was the true "start" of our lives, and we are very grateful for our many blessings. We are thankful that we still have our daughter, and have been subsequently blessed with several wonderful grandchildren. We are thankful for the people whose paths we cross, and all the love we’re encountering in this ongoing journey.

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