My Anissa Post: Prayer Isn't Enough
[Background on Anissa Mayhew here or here]
Leave it to the widow to say what no one else will: Prayer and love are great. But they are NOT ENOUGH. Whatever happens with Anissa, and I hope as strongly as you do that the outcome is whatever is best for her, things are NOT going to be okay.
So I’m going to give it to you straight: Send up those winged hopes. But plant roots, too, please: add something like this to your prayers and posts and intentions: "Whatever happens, I will help her family for the long haul." They -- Anissa’s husband and three children -- are going to ACTIVELY need your positive energy (and time and money) for at least the next three years.
I’m not an expert on brain injury, but I can read between the lines of the latest post by Peter Mayhew, Anissa’s husband because I, too, wrote hopeful, factual, evasive updates to hundreds of “friends.” It was one of my many unwanted duties (we are not strong, we are obligated) during the two years my late husband was living with a stage IV cancer. So I can hear it in Peter’s voice: the best outcome is probably NOT going to be something you’re comfortable with. Some likely possibilities: temporary disability with a very, very long recovery, permanent disability, or death. Any of these means a long road of grieving for those that Anissa loves the best (yes, becoming disabled involves grief, too).
I’m sorry. Many of you know her well. I met her just once: I hugged her at BlogHer09. I loved her work. I admired her. I thought, if I were ten years younger, braver, stronger, I could have been doing something similar. A few days ago I told Mr. Fresh about Anissa: I said, she’s on an upward trajectory and she’s just the kind of person you like to see succeed. I was looking forward to working with her more. I still am.
What everyone says is true: that lady has more fight in her pinky finger than all of us put together. But you only get one body.
Yes, Anissa has your love, thousands of you, and if God is on Twitter, he’s seen many thousands of hashtagged prayers on her behalf. I know: it does count. These emotions are yours and real and valid.
Internet prayers are powerful, but they aren’t known for their durability. Not too long ago, you may have tinted your Twitter avatar green in honor of those protesting the elections in Iran; a few short weeks later we were all Michael Jackson, all the time. (I said “we.”) A day or two after the switch, Jessica Gottlieb tweeted (I paraphrase), “Hey, anyone know what’s happening in Iran today? Me neither.”
So I’ll tell you what usually happens in the case of long-term illness or death: people are real good at the beginning. Intense and generous. Widows, and sometimes caregivers, have a huge circle.
For a few weeks.
Then, if you’ve been there, you know: the supporters and care and casseroles disappear. It’s not that people are fickle, but facing something as awful as the loss of a friend (or the loss of a friend’s abilities) is heartbreaking for EVERYONE.
It’s easy to say that you aren’t the closest friends, or that family will help. But saying that creates distance and they can't afford distance from anyone.First of all, family and friends are not enough, even for a superstar like Anissa: the needs of a bereaved family are endless, their pain is hard to share. Second, those people who are closest to the sick person are grieving too and very likely, they have more responsibility and less time than they did before.
It's a long, hard, intense and often lonely path which no one chooses. The journey is not over when the person has healed, or when a surviving spouse remarries. (If you’ve read Anissa’s posts about what she went through with her daughter’s cancer, you’ll know it’s true).
THREE YEARS. Even if you weren’t close. Can you pledge to keep an eye on the Mayhews, no matter what shape their family takes? Can you swear to continue your generosity and outpouring of love even after something else comes up?
Will you pray for the compassion that comes from listening to someone in pain? For the strength to help them when they are weak? For the ability to stay and hold their hand even when you, too, are feeling overcome? Will you read up* on ways to help a grieving family?
Will you understand that full love and respect and unconditional support that Peter will require, no matter what the outcome of this illness? Because his wellbeing is the number one factor in how the children will fare. And he will need more than prayers.
If so, please pray for Anissa. And Peter. And their children, and all the rest of their family. If you do, I promise you will grow and learn from this love because it is great.
* One of my favorites is "What Grieving People Want You to Know" [MS Word document] by Dr. Virginia A. Simpson.
* * * Comments * * *