The MacDonald home celebrates this Christmas season with a little more excitement than those holidays of the not-so-distant past. My youngest son’s health is the best it’s ever been, and we are in an excellent place. We have nothing to complain about. Life is good and the business of this time of year sparks a fresh sense of hope and joy.
Recently, I shared with a few groups of people the horrors of MacDonald the Younger’s health issues. I discussed how my son could not walk and sat in a wheelchair for more than a solid year. I recounted the many days he spent hospitalized with pain so great that regular pain management regiments could not treat him. We spent more days in the hospital than out.
Why these stories? Why now? My righteous younger dude does not suffer anymore. The only sign he did is a slight limp. Other than that, he is at his prime. There is no obvious reason to discuss these horrible issues anymore. The past is where it should be — in the past. So far, his current medication provides him the protection he needs from breakthrough bleeding. All is well.
After sharing the stories, I usually spend a fair amount of time beating myself up. “Joe, you do not need to share your boy’s struggles. Let it go and get over it.” I’ve continued to keep pouncing on my brain, taking no prisoners. We are in the middle of a time of great health. Why conjure up some of the most challenging times of my life?
One day, while struggling with this thought, a still, small voice inside me seemed to permit my grieving. “Yes,” it said, “Life is incredible right now. The holidays appear fresh and new. There is no reason that you should not take advantage of your newfound health. However, it is also appropriate and human to grieve bad memories.”
I must give myself permission to accept the events of the past and mourn their passing. Acknowledgment gives way to grief, which gives way to healing.
A wave of relief enveloped me as I realized that I needed to give myself space to reflect on the not-so-good moments to appreciate the here and now. Blocking away feelings only prevents me from experiencing the joy that is possible with hard work and self-reflection. The present is heightened with a greater sense of pleasure as I look at the past and turn my attention to the very exciting present. And all it takes is a quick turn of the head.
It is with great joy that the Christmas season began with lights, trees, and an endless array of decorations that tell the stories of our family. We share with gratitude that a season of struggle fades with each passing year and the focus on our current good fortunes allows us to enjoy the holidays like never before. Our memories of the events that held us captive will be with us always, but it will never overshadow the hopes experienced in the here and now. Enjoy this season, this year, at this moment.
We move forward, complete with our whole selves and ready to share with other people struggling to understand the effects of chronic illnesses. They turn to us because we know what it’s like to muddle through the aches and pains associated with medical issues. We stand by caregivers when they feel like there is nothing to do but scream. We remind them of the hope that lies right around the corner. Most of all, we promise never to leave their side. Service to others is where our true healing firmly establishes itself and brings meaning in the middle of our most profound pain.
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