My sixteen year-old daughter Maggie woke us up at 1AM this morning. She was nauseous and feverish and I knew that one of us would have to stay home with her today rather than go in to teach. I decided that it would be my turn.
As bad as I knew Maggie felt, I went back to sleep actually looking forward to spending a day at home with my little girl…a day in which I could be with, and take care of, the teenager that many times pushes me away.
I have never minded staying at home when my kids are sick; I am all too aware that these days are fleeting. My kids will be turning twenty, seventeen, and thirteen in the next few weeks. The unexpected gift of a day to spend quality time with your child is to be treasured, I know.
I woke up with a start around 4AM about a month ago. An idea that may have been in my dreams that night immediately jumped into my conscious mind and practically rolled off my lips as my wife lay asleep next to me.
“The blessing of illness,” I said to myself, “the blessing of illness.”
Seriously. The thought was so clear. I know because I wrote it down in the dark that morning so I wouldn’t forget it. It was an odd notion, this idea that being sick could be viewed as a blessing. But that’s where I had come to be over the previous two months.
Since mid-December, I have been suffering from the sudden onset of constant daily headaches. There have been other symptoms and setbacks, but the headaches have been the worst. I have been seeing all of the appropriate specialists and have received test results that rule out the worst of possible scenarios. That’s all good. But the headaches persist and are not going away.
I have made big and small changes to my lifestyle in an attempt to gain control over these headaches, and hopefully make them go away for good. It hasn’t worked yet, but the very act of making these changes must be what caused me to come to that dreamlike epiphany – that being sick can actually be a blessing.
For the past three months, I’ve made note of all of the positive changes I have made in my life. Among my favorites:
- I am eating healthier foods and regularly exercising three times a week
- I read and reflect for one hour in the quietness before dawn every morning
- I have developed an outlook of gratitude toward others
- I am focusing on being “with” loved ones and valuing the time we have together
- I am managing job stress much, much better
- I am more aware of others and what they might be going through
Sure, I wish my headaches were gone, but I wouldn’t give up any of these changes in my life now that I’ve made them.
The blessing of illness isn’t something I’ve ever read about or heard anywhere. I did an online search just to check and see. The concept has been around; it’s out there. There are sites that link this concept to several different faiths and spiritual paths, but it is totally new to me. I’m glad it came to me in the middle of the night.
Today, I get to stay at home and take care of my sick daughter. As I make soup for Maggie and refill her glass with ginger ale, we’ll binge watch a few Grey’s Anatomy episodes together. I’ll remember her as the little girl that once needed her Dad more than she seems to today, and she might see me as someone she doesn’t need to push away from quite as much as she thinks she does. And I’ll deal with my headaches and try to be awake when the next blessing comes my way.