One of happiest memories of my daughters’ childhood is that of reading books in front of the big stone fire in our Melbourne house. More often than not we chose to curl up with one of the books from the “Milly Molly Mandy” series and after first studying the map, then recalling last night’s chapter we would enter the little village where Milly Molly Mandy and Billy Blunt would have another tale to tell.
Everything was always safe in the world of Milly Molly Mandy and we followed her days through the little village, the blackberry patch, the playing fields, and took the short cut behind little girl Jessamine’s big white house and Miss Muggins store to get safely home to the nice white cottage with the thatched roof (where Milly Molly Mandy lived). We never thought too much about what existed beyond ‘The Village’ or thought about the map that wasn’t recorded of the nearby town.
Life with a map is safe. The boundaries are marked in bold lines, we can chose to explore beyond them or we can chose to remain in ignorant bliss, managing our own lives and never taking risks. When there is a map we have direction, all is clear we can find the treasure because it’s marked with an X. Or maybe our map is like ‘Neverland,’ a place where anything is possible and boundaries do not exist. Our map would be limited only by imagination and if we dream it, it is possible.
I’ve lived much of my life through the fanciful world of imagination. I think my children would agree that we’ve delighted in life partly because of my love of books, poetry and make believe. We’ve shared magical adventures together, once creating our very own ‘Enchanted Wood’ just like the one in ‘The Folk from the Faraway Tree.’ We imagined fairies at the bottom of the garden and I sent off Sam, Emma and Jack’s teeth to help those fairies build their houses whenever one was loose and fell out.
I went shopping with Emma recently and we bought the most delightful necklace from Disney Couture that opened to display a map of Pixie Hollow. A childhood of memories seemed to seep out of it when we opened the clasp and we talked for ages about when she had danced as a mermaid in the ballet concert the year they performed Peter Pan.
My mind contains a map of delightful memories, there’s more than just one lane. I have found my imagination to be a most useful tool as we have taken this journey through illness. There is no denying however that the map that I imagined my life to follow does not exist anymore. Where there was once expectation there is simply hope.
What do we do when there is no map and choice seems to be taken away?
Life doesn’t always go the way we planned, does it? Stuff happens, people get sick; business deals don’t go through, someone else gets the job we wanted, or the house doesn’t sell. Life forces us beyond ‘The Village’ and there is no direction, it seems.
Sometimes it feels like we’ve been sidelined, we get angry, we think we’ve had our fair share of setbacks and we look for someone to blame. Unfortunately it’s nobody’s fault, there’s no one to pin it on, it’s not personal, its just life and now it’s up to us to work on our response.
On Friday, I took off my ‘Alice in Wonderland’ costume that I wore to school for the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party with the Kindy children and changed to go to the hospital. We waited for hours to be seen. Waiting is so frustrating. Your heart grows heavy. You watch the sick people come out of the lift all hunched over, with pain in their faces and you listen to them sigh.
They wonder, like you do, whether they should move the car, or ring the children who will now be coming home from school because of waiting so long. They whisper at first, ‘Its been an hour,’ but when the hours roll past they throw their out of date magazine onto the coffee table in angst. It’s not like waiting for the curtain to come up at the theatre or a plane to take you on a holiday. There is no joyous anticipation, just hope and fear curdling in your stomach.
Finally it was our turn and I had so many questions. Some of them I asked the professor twice, and then I recited her responses back to her to check I had understood what was said. It’s the strangest feeling being told that your daughter has such bad osteoporosis that she should be very careful what she does. ‘No high heels, no running, no jumping but walking would be good.’
The damage was to be expected the professor said. ‘After all that prednisone, and chemotherapy and TBI but maybe in 2 or 3 years your bones will be stronger.’ Then she went onto to explain that Vitamin D and Calcium in high doses was good but other treatments that they would give to the elderly would not be worth trialling because in time they too could have adverse effects not desirable in one so young.
We went on to discuss Sam’s thyroid and more fertility tests because the Haemotology doctor hadn’t quite set the right circumstances for the one done previously and we discussed all the options that might be available and some of the complications we may not have considered for the future.
I have a precious friend who had two children affected by cancer. Her son had leukaemia at 4 then further complications at 16, then her daughter had a brain tumour at 16 as well, just after her first son recovered from his second ordeal. ‘You learn to adjust to a new sort of normal,’ she tells me. I know she is right. We adjust, we compensate, we make it work.
We don’t want to just get by though. We don’t want our ordeal to dictate to us. We are not victims we are survivors who we wear the wounds of war. Though our heart grows faint within us, we hearken to the sound of the trumpet calling us to higher ground.
‘Many are the afflictions of the righteous but the Lord delivers them out of them all.’
‘Blessed be the Lord my Rock, who trains our hands for war.’
God is training us for something. I imagine a blank page in front of me, a pen in my hand. I see a new map being drawn, a map that leads the hurting, the wounded and the lonely to safety. I see a place were dreams come to pass instead of growing musty on the shelf. I hear people’s voices speaking. The ones who thought that time had passed them by. I see the pain being worth it because through it a lesson was learned and the solutions could be passed on to another. I see a tribe of like-minded people gathering, from all backgrounds, ages and social status with the realization that we are all needy and broken and desperate for community.
I see God in all His grace reminding us that He came:
‘To grant [consolation and joy] to those who mourn in Zion–to give them an ornament (a garland or diadem) of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, the garment [expressive] of praise instead of a heavy, burdened, and failing spirit–that they may be called oaks of righteousness [lofty, strong, and magnificent, distinguished for uprightness, justice, and right standing with God], the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified. And they shall rebuild the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former desolations and renew the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations. Aliens shall stand [ready] and feed your flocks, and foreigners shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers.’ Isaiah 61:3-5 (Amplified Bible)