Admirable. Calm. Optimistic. Wise. Realistic. Strong. These are words that people have used to describe me throughout these past few months.
I’m humbled, as I consider those words to be complimentary. I’d throw a few more in the mix if I was asked to describe myself: Powerless. Alone. In a state of perpetual exhaustion. Striving to be resilient. As the adage goes, “friends are the mirror reflecting the truth of who we are” – I’m glad that others see a stronger, poised version of me. I don’t always feel that way. Your affirmation has been good for my spirits.
I’ve been consciously reluctant to share some significant events and challenges of late in my posts. This venue doesn’t seem to be best for soul-bearing confessions. I realize this may sound contradictory to some of you (this is a blog, of course. what else are they for?); the point I’m trying to make is that while what I do share may give you a glimpse of my life, there is a bit more to the story than what shows up here. (I’m living up to my subtitle, made famous by the Real World: “You think you know. But you have no idea.”) I’m venturing out today, giving you a little more personal detail on what life has been for me lately.
I’m skipping a lot of the background details. Here’s the present-day story: Ben’s dad, Peter, has been having severe health problems; he has a history of heart illness, and it has escalated greatly, beginning in late January (right before Ben left for OCS). He has struggled for years with a genetic degenerative heart disease that has left him with a very, very weak heart. He’s had a few surgeries in the past couple months. And now Peter is back in the hospital. He is retaining fluid around his heart and lungs and having some other difficulties, but remains in good spirits. Peter has been put on the active list for a heart transplant. In 2003-2004, Peter was on the list, but they took him off, even though his heart was still weak. Thankfully, since we have more contact with Ben at this point, we have been able to keep him up-to-date on Peter’s condition. For awhile, he was unaware of the latest circumstances, and we all were afraid to tell him, knowing the difficulties he was facing at OCS and the added stress this would cause. It has been quite the journey for all of us. I am in regular communication with Jane, Ben’s mom, providing a listening ear to her, while duly serving as an informant for Ben.
I share this in hopes that those of you who are the “praying kind” will remember Peter and the Hoadley family in your prayers. Pray for his restored health, for comfort, and for continued optimism. He would love nothing more than to be back teaching at VMI (he is a blessed man to find so much joy in his work!). Obviously, for Peter to receive a heart, the donor who gives him a chance at new life will no longer live. Pray for this unknown hero’s family as they grieve the loss of their loved one. Pray for Ben as he continues with OCS; pray for strength, rest, peace, and encouragement.
This, perhaps, may shed a bit more light as to why I feel powerless at moments. For Ben, all I can tangibly offer him at this point are letters and words of encouragement when we do get to talk. It doesn’t feel like enough. For years, Romans 8 has been a favorite passage of mine. Certain phrases have been replaying in my mind lately, reminding me that even when I am speechless and helpless, I’m not hopeless or alone: “…in the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express…and we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.”
This week, I began to dabble in some online message boards and groups for people with loved ones in OCS. I had been feeling very alone and isolated the past few weeks; no one in my life at this point really seems to understand what I’m going through. In the short few days I’ve been connected, it has been an encouragement to interact with people who can speak into or resonate with my experience. It has been an answer to my own prayers. Ben and I have talked about how important this is and how I’ve struggled with truly feeling supported and understood; he encouraged me to plug in with these people. They know what I’m facing. I look forward to the relationships that will develop out of this experience, both during OCS and as Ben continues with the Navy. The shared experiences will provide a solid foundation for a thriving, supportive community.
There will always be challenges in life. There will always be pain and suffering. But thankfully, there is always hope. I do have power over my emotions, my attitude, and how I treat others. And that is all I should worry about. The rest is out of my control. And I just need to continue to acknowledge and accept that. Easy, right?