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Thoughts from the Road

Traveling over the holidays is usually hectic at best. But a recent travel companion made me rethink the way I interact with people. I sat next to a woman named Lee on a flight from Dallas to Orlando. I was way behind on my book club book, but I asked her where she was going when I sat down.

She was on her way to visit her sisters. I was on my way to visit my sisters. And that is about the only thing similar about our stories. Lee is an attractive woman in her early 60’s. She was taking a break from her disabled husband. He has been dealing with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) for over five years. She has been taking care of him.

As a caregiver to someone with a chronic illness, the stress can be overwhelming. For Lee, it was worse for two reasons. One, her husband had turned mean and selfish. Two, Lee’s cancer had come back after 15 years of remission. She told me she wasn’t going to do it again. No more chemo, no more radiation. She said it is bad enough when you don’t know what you have to face. It is too much when you do know. She had a year to live.

To say Lee has a lot to deal with is an understatement. I listened to her for the entire flight as she unloaded her guilt about hating her husband and wanting to enjoy the rest of her life. I had no advice to give her. I couldn’t fix her problems. But I could listen and encourage her.

As a mom, my natural tendency is to fix things. I hope I can resist doing that unless someone specifically says “I need you to fix my problem.” Not many people ever ask you that.

On my return flight, I opened my book as soon as I sat down. I thought it would be a nice escape from strangers’ problems. It is a book called “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed. It is her memoir about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail alone. Boy was I wrong.

Be thankful.