Getting by with plenty of help from friends

Lately, I have been overwhelmed with a sense of helplessness and sadness.

My wife’s Alzheimer’s is getting worse; recently they had to take her to the hospital. She is back at the memory union now, but every time I see her (almost every day), I come home deeply saddened. Add to that, winter is coming to Western New York and my soon to be 82-year-old body struggles to keep up.

Friends, family, professionals, (and many medications) help. But in the midst of this pain I recall the Unitarians Universalist tradition, reminding us of “the interdependent web of all existence, of which we are a part.”

Although I may feel it, I am not alone in my suffering. Many friends are also in pain. A 50-year-old father has just died of brain cancer. A priest friend in far off Australia is dying; the doctors can do no more. Then there is the calamitous typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. All this should help put my own suffering in perspective. And in my more noble moments it does.

My Christian faith also helps. When I am virtuous, I ask God for the grace to carry my crosses and to leave my worries and tribulations in His/Her hands. I know through faith that God, whose nature is love (1 John 4:8), loves my wife and family more than I do.

There is a coffee mug I use in the morning with a message on it from an unknown author. As I sip and savor my caffeine fix at breakfast, I often fail to read it. I should; it says.

“Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.”

It’s people, however, who help me most. I need them badly. We all need other people to help us carry our burdens – and we all have burdens to carry. But often we must ask for that help. Many of us, I think, are reluctant to do that. We don’t want to impose. We don’t want to admit our need. We don’t want to trouble others.

But we must. Wasn’t it Hilary Clinton who first said it takes a village to raise a child? Well it takes a village, a community, a network of family and friends to help us caregivers in our struggles. And I am very grateful for all those who have helped me in mine.

But whether we are caregivers or not, we need others. Why? Because all of us are inextricably joined. We are a part of that interdependent web of existence.

Or like Simon of Cyrene (Mt. 27:32) on the road to Calvary, we are called to help others carry their crosses.

We are all in this together.

Retired from the administration at State University of New York at Fredonia, Daniel O’Rourke lives in Cassadaga. His columns once appeared regularly in the OBSERVER. A grandfather, Dan is a married Catholic priest. His book, “The Living Spirit” is a collection of his previous columns. To read about that book or send comments on this column visit his website