Wednesday, September 6, 2017
Chew the Gum
Anne Lamott tells the story of having her tonsils taken out as an adult. After two weeks, her prescription for painkillers ran out. She called the doctor’s office to get a new prescription, and the nurse said No. The nurse told her to chew gum vigorously, which is the last thing that Lamott wanted to do with a painful throat.
The nurse explained that when we have a wound in our body, the nearby muscles cramp around it to protect it from any more damage, and that Lamott would have to use those muscles if she wanted them to relax.
Lamott got the gum and she said that the first chews felt like she was ripping things out in the back of her throat, but in a few minutes all the pain was gone.
For some people, the death of a loved one is so traumatic that they never want to go through this again. They put a protective barrier around themselves to prevent new pain, but this barrier also keeps others from loving them.
The reality is that if we love someone deeply, the benefits of this love outweigh the grief we will feel when they die.
My friend Kimberly married Paul even though he had a near-fatal cancer in college, and the medical treatment compromised his immune system. She couldn’t deal with it then, but years later they reconnected and this time she said Yes, knowing that they would likely have only years together instead of decades. Paul’s death tore her apart, but she is grateful that she had the courage to take the risk because the time they had together was amazing.
The reality is that life involves death. That’s part of the package, like it or not. People we love are going to die, some by accidents, some by health matters, and some by old age. Good friends will also move away, our daily interactions with them will wither, and we will grieve the loss of these relationships.
We will never forget the deaths of those we love, but after the brutal shock has worn off, we need to chew grief’s gum. We need to dance and laugh and sing again if we’re going to have any chance of surviving.
Life is about loving others as much, and for as long, as we can.