I thought it was heat rash when the red prickly, itchy bumps appeared. Then the pain set in and my instincts told me otherwise. The doctor took one look and resolutely said, “Shingles.” “Adult chicken pox?” I asked. “At your age the only explanation is that it is stress induced,” he looked at me with what felt like a smidge of silent judgment. I was on Google as soon as I walked in the door to discern how long this bout would last, my mind already racing to the commitments I had the following work week and how was I going to host my daughter’s 10th birthday party the next day. High on the list of things I am not good at is being sick and being still.
When the text came in from an old dear friend asking if she could bring me a home cooked meal to help, I readily started my message to decline. I did not want to inconvenience her. I did not want to be weak anymore. Then my bare cabinets came to mind since I had not been able to do weekly grocery shopping and I recalled what a fantastic cook she is and my mouth started to water. I realized my daughters would be back in my care the following day and an already prepared meal would be wonderfully supportive. I deleted the start of my “thanks but no thanks” reply and accepted.
I was reminded of a time that I wished for the casseroles to come and they did not. It was September of 2011 and my divorce was newly final. 2 weeks later, my law partner’s husband would pass away. She was flooded with visitors, her fridge filled with homemade food from friends, and flowers were sent to provide beauty in her now saddened home. In the days of my divorce being final, although I was grieving in as serious a way for the loss of my marriage, I received none of those signs of sympathy. The juxtaposition of this left me feeling very lonely.
I share this now for both those who are grieving hard the marriage that has been lost and those who are supporting someone on this sorrow-filled path. For those divorcing, your grief is real and you should not feel guilty or embarrassed by the number of days it is hard to get out of bed or ashamed for wishing someone would offer to help you out with a warm meal or an errand. For those supporting, it may be appropriate to offer the same level of care you would for someone sickly or someone newly suffering any other huge loss. Support is needed more than ever.
As a post-script, I offer the tip to be persistent. When people find themselves suddenly in a state of new and scary independence, silly pride may interfere while they seek to prove they can handle it. (I happen to know from personal experience…) Your persistence will pay off.
When the casserole arrived complete with garlic bread and homemade chocolate chip cookies, my eyes and heart swelled with emotion. I knew I was not alone. I knew that I did not have to do everything on my own. I felt cared for and loved. Not only had I learned to let it in the door, but I now understood the importance more than ever of casserole care.