Last Wednesday was a strange, surreal day for me. The day started normally, though an afternoon appointment would, I knew, feel strange. A member of our church was dying of cancer, but had insisted I come and take some things from his house that he wanted to give to the church.
Then, around 11, I got a call from my mom that my dad wasn’t doing well – that he was, the words I remember, “failing fast.” I went into son mode and took off toward Arlington, making phone calls as I went. Dad had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and Parkinson’s related dementia, several years ago, and the decline has been, well, long and uncomfortable.
It turns out dad was not as close to death’s door as we thought, but he was having a difficult day. He had, perhaps, had a small stroke the previous weekend, and was less responsive and not interested in food or drink. While I was there they got him to take some food. The immediacy of the situation lessened, I went back to work.
I went back to work but probably wasn’t worth much. Apparently thinking one’s parent is about to die is rather more distracting than I would like it to be.
Later that afternoon, I made it to visit with my dying church member. After sharing communion and visiting with him and the friends who were gathered, I began carrying things to the truck I had borrowed for the occasion.
One the way out, I caught myself thinking, “this hasn’t been a very good day for me.”
I stopped those words and played with them in my head. On a day that I visit with two men who were both likely not to live out the year – perhaps the month – I was feeling like I wasn’t having a good day?
I have not shared this for you to feel sorry for me, to join the piling-on over feeling sorry for myself.
I decided to share this because sometimes in the midst of a challenging time, or despair or sadness, we lose perspective by comparing ourselves with others.
My realization that I was having a bad day was NOT AT ALL about, or to be compared with, the situations of the two men I visited that day.
I have my ups and downs, and you have yours. That yours are worse today than mine, or that mine were worse last summer than yours is only relevant if being human were a contest, but it isn’t.
In the presence of either my father, or the other man I visited that day, my own situation or challenges appropriately paled in comparison. But my life is not well lived in comparison to the lives of others. Neither is yours.
Here’s to knowing when to compare, and when not to.