Suffering isn’t limited to the street

It was a pleasant surprise to learn that there was a website that catered to the well-being of individuals who needed some temporary help.

Meal Train was just that. A person or family could register, and those wishing to bring a prepared meal could either find an available time or choose when they were able to offer their service.

Our church family had been preparing meals for some friends, who because of serious sickness, needed the help. When Meal Train came along, co-ordinating was taken care of.

The family for this column consisted of a grandmother, a mother and father, and one son who is taking his master’s degree from a university in the U.S.A.

The road to suffering started with the passing of the grandmother. Being a very small family, this hit hard, especially when you consider your family just shrunk by 25 per cent.

At the same time, the mother faced many surgeries and treatments for an extremely painful disease. Because of their faith, she and her family felt both life and death were under the control of God, so she persevered.

Her passing a short while later was a blessing for the remaining two, except for the fact they just lost a dearly loved wife and mother, not to mention another 33 per cent of the family.

So now it was down to just the father and the son, but the suffering does not end there.

The father has cancer. It was eating him up from the inside out, attacking the bones.

In a fall, it was discovered the bones in his spine were so weak, they could no longer support his head, so when he came out of the hospital, his son had come home to be with his dad, and that was the beginning of the meals, because it’s hard to cook meals wearing a very restrictive neck brace.

That’s the physical aspect of the story, but the mental and emotional toll has been extreme.

The son, overwhelmed by the loss of half his family, and now facing a father with terminal cancer, has had difficulty returning to school, especially after having been gone two semesters. But he has recently left to take the second semester for his masters degree.

The university he attends has bent over backwards to be supportive and is always willing to have him return to complete his studies.

The fact his heart and mind are here with his father is a foregone conclusion, but his father also has encouraged him to finish his studies, knowing they have a whole church family behind them.

So, why this story? Many people in the world suffer in many different ways, but my focus for the past 10 years has been the folks on the street and those in desperate need.

So much so, that all the suffering in the general population went largely over my head.

Now the street is no longer my main focus, and with reminders from my spouse, I am taking more notice of and interest in these folks and their conditions.

Having spent quite some time in doctors’ waiting rooms in the last while, watching people coming and going with all their travails, and when you become familiar with stories like the one I just laid out, you become more than aware that suffering is not just the property of the street.

Never too old to learn, I have become aware we have to deal with one, without forgetting the other. As far as suffering is concerned, we learn pain has no address.

Chris Salomons is a retired Red Deer resident.

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