She used to be an elementary school teacher. In her prime she ran her classroom like a tight ship. There was no funny business when she was in front of the class. There was no fooling around. She was in control. As she talked to me in the cancer center and described how advanced her cancer was and how tough the treatments were going to be she did not look like a person who was in control. She looked tired and weak and beaten down. She looked at me and her lips quivered as she said, “I feel like I’m losing control. I can’t even control my bowels.” It was apparent that she felt humbled and humiliated. She felt dependent on others. She didn’t know if she had the strength to handle the treatments. She didn’t know if the time she would gain would be worth the price she would have to pay.
We sat there silently for a moment as she poured out her heart. I felt honored that she trusted me with her thoughts and feelings when her life was at such a low ebb. And then she said, “My sister has been so good to me. She has helped me to get around. She has brought me to my appointments. She has taken charge and given me the hope that we can get through this.” As she said this I saw that she had begun to see some things that she hadn’t seen before. As much as she hated being out of control, as much as she hated having to ask others for help, as much as she hated being dependent, she had come to understand some things she hadn’t thought about before. She was not alone. She was loved by others and now they had a chance to do something for her. She was at a low ebb but she wasn’t finished yet. She might see some things and do some things that would still bring meaning and purpose to her life.
I have thought about this lady many times since that day. I have seen her a number of times since then and I can see there is still fire in her eyes. And more clearly now I see that when hard things knock us down and open us up it not only hurts us and shakes us to our core it also brings new things to light. We may see things about ourselves and others we didn’t know was there. We may find ourselves growing stronger and wiser and deeper than we were. In losing control we not only lose we also gain.