THE GIVEN COMPANION
“How do you expect
to get to the end of your own journey
if you take the road
to another man’s city?”
Thomas Merton said.
I imagine that he also asked:
“And how will you build your home there
if you reject the given companions
who come to you with the right gifts
and the necessary tools?”
I imagine that I ask these questions
of myself and others
when we confront hard choices
and are tempted to prefer the congenial, the beautiful,
and the easy-to-love.
“How can I, how can you, my friend,
tell the end of our stories
if we refuse to live the middle?”
Cherry Winkle Moore
The story behind this poem:
I had heard the phrase “given companion” and knew it would fit somewhere sometime. I knew it described my children. I didn’t special order either one of them but they were the children who arrived, who were “given.”
When I was sitting in a doctor’s office one day, I picked up a women’s magazine and started reading one of those “My Problem and How I Solved It” articles. The young female writer shared about finding out that her unborn child had a genetic problem. She “realized” that a child who was disabled would upset her career plans and make life difficult for her and her husband and her eight-year-old daughter. This unborn child was her “problem”. The rest of the article was about how she found a family to adopt her baby as soon as it was born so her life could go on without that burden.
I thought I was waiting to talk with this doctor about one problem but by the time I saw the doctor I had another one. I was livid. I couldn’t imagine a woman feeling this way or a magazine publishing such a story. My heart was breaking because Lew was living away from me and here was a woman who gave her child away. The poem came a little while later as I wondered how she would ever be able to “tell the end of her story” having made this choice in the middle of it. I have wondered how the other daughter turned out knowing she had a sister who was thrown away for the family’s convenience.
But mostly I thought about the ten years Lew lived at home with us and required total care. I am reminded of another article with a wonderful title: Family life as a spiritual discipline. The title was better than the article because the examples used didn’t apply to me but the concept helped me a lot. I was helped to see that caring for Lew wasn’t what I was doing instead of living my life — it was my life and sometimes I was able to experience caring for Lew as a means of grace.