I first noticed Jane when my Mom was admitted into the Nursing Home/Rehab Facility in the town where I live. I noticed her particularly because her mattress was on the floor, and though I thought it peculiar, I didn’t think about it anymore for weeks. Each time I visited my mom, I passed Jane’s room. The door was always open, and there was Jane, lying on her mattress on the floor. It wasn’t until two weeks ago, while visiting Mom for our regular Wednesday night date to watch Criminal Minds, that I learned something about Jane.
Above the sound of the television show, we heard horrible cries of pain.
My Mom said, “Poor Jane.” I replied, “Who’s Jane?” “The one crying out.” Mom explained, “She has a disease that causes her a lot of pain and she cries out a lot. She has to sleep on the floor because she rolls out of the bed.”
Mom continued, “One day her husband came up and I was going down the hall, he was so drunk he could barely walk.”
A little shocked I asked, “Does he come here often?”
“I’ve seen him a few times. He’s always drunk.”
After a bit of silence between the two of us, punctuated by Jane’s cries, I asked, “How old do you think Jane is Mom?”
“Oh, I’d guess in her early to mid 50s”
“Do you think this is a disease she always had?”
“No, I think it is something that just recently started.”
“How sad, Mom. Maybe her husband started drinking when she fell ill.”
“I think that is what happened.”
I think about this conversation everyday and what always strikes me is how unaffectedly I passed Jane’s room without a thought to her condition or her pain. I imagine her at my age. Married with children. Living her life, dreaming about a future with her husband when the children have grown. What had they planned to do?
Not long ago, I received an email where you answer a bunch of questions and send it on to others. One of the questions was “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?” This question took me aback at the time because I realized in that moment, that in 10 short years, Stephen would be 21 years old and Virgil and I would have completely different daily lives. And while I felt a stab of sadness at the thought of my babe all grown up, I also got excited at the thought of roaming the roads with Virgil on a trike! Or Virgil and I in Greece, or heading off to a movie and dinner together anytime we wanted to. I wonder if Jane had dreams like these too?
On the night of that conversation with my Mom, as I drove back home, I asked the Lord, “Why do some people have to suffer so?” I don’t know that I’ve received an answer yet, but He has helped me to realize some things. We are not promised a perfect life here on Earth. But if we live our life for God, put our troubles, fears, misgivings, and pains into his hands, we are promised a perfect eternal life in heaven. We all have different challenges and burdens that we bear, but we never have to bear them alone. Just ask the Lord to carry the bulk of the load. And for those of us, whose burdens aren’t in the form of painful or debilitating illnesses, there is something we can do. Don’t walk past the Jane’s of the world without acknowledgement, without a care. Take time to say a prayer and ask the Lord to carry their load.