Battling the tiger of pain

“Another bad night?” The Preacher asks from his side of the bed as I enter the room.

“Hey, that’s my question!” I ease myself into a sitting position on the opposite side and begin my morning litany. “Everything hurts. All the time. Every teeny little move. Can’t cover myself up. Can’t stand up to put pants on. Can’t sit down to…”

Suddenly, the bed begins shaking. I toss a pillow at the shaker. “What’s so funny?”

He responds between gasps. “’Oh, I can’t sit up. I can’t move my arm. I can’t walk or talk or feed myself. I can’t even think….’All those months in Wascana, did you ever hear me complaining?”

“Well…now that you mention it, you did, in fact.” His complaints, rather than articulated words, emerged as moans—moans he doesn’t remember. “So we’re even.”

Except during his half-year in hospital and rehab centre, battling West Nile at its worst, I didn’t laugh. Oh, no. I moved in. Literally. Arranged his pillows. Rearranged his pillows. Covered him with blankets. Uncovered him when he moaned in a different key. Wheeled him wherever he needed to go.

“Hey, it’s my turn to need you. A little empathy would be in order here,” I huff. Yet I know he has that. His numerous kind gestures reassure me throughout each day. At night, however, he must leave me to God while he fights his own battles with pain.

Unlike my husband’s disabling disease, with its still-lingering effects, I have a minor ailment.  But full-blown sciatica burns like flames deep in the tissues, making its worst assault at night. For the last several weeks, I have wandered the house like Goldilocks, searching for a comfortable resting place. Finding none; feeling abandoned, at times even by God.

Clutching water, pillow, blanket, hot pad, massager, liniment, flashlight and Bible I journey, desperate for relief. The tiger follows. Strikes my leg and buttock with claws that embed more deeply with each step. My muscles knot, transforming my flesh to stone.

The sciatic nerve threads from the back to the toes, thick as one’s baby finger. When inflamed or pinched, nothing kind can reach it and nothing soft may caress it. Until prayer, time and treatment placate the tiger, I must befriend it. Attempt to learn the lessons it alone can teach.

Last night, weary of my own complaining company, I found myself humming. “Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on, let me stand. I am tired, I am weak, I am worn. Through the storm, through the night, lead me on to the light. Take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.”

Composer Tommy Dorsey, I suspect, knew about pain. (Maybe even about sciatica.) So, thank God, does Jesus. He walks alongside when others can’t. And when they can, their kindness flows from his hand.

When you fight pain, no matter its form, remember that. And if you know a tiger-fighter, remember this: every prayer, each word of hope matters.

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My AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers of America) colleague Lisa Copen heads a great ministry called Rest Ministries, Inc–Joyfully Serving the Chronically Ill. If that includes you or someone you love, I encourage you to check out her ministry, beginning with a set of helpful notes on a sermon discussing the Purpose of Life’s Trials–you’ll find that here. (You’ll also find links to listen to sermon–audio only. )