Picture 29

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
August 1993

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.