A pair of sandhill cranes still wanders the neighborhood. In fact, I’m pretty sure they believe they own the neighborhood. These four-foot-tall birds poke their beaks into open garages. They linger, chattering in the middle of the street. If a human should be so impertinent as to tap a horn, they cock their heads, look the car up and down, then slooowly meander off the pavement. The huffiness is palpable. On my daily walks, I look for their red-crested heads and greet them. Sometimes I know where to look, because I can hear their distinctive echoing calls. I am quite fond of them.
I love that they mate for life. I love that the male and female build the nest together and care for their fledglings for nine or ten months. I love that these mated-for-life pairs still perform ritual mating dances together until death does them part, which can be as long as 20 years. They are beautiful and entertaining. Their quirks and their devotion to each other give them a unique charm.
During the last year, while the world has coped with COVID-19 and the associated lockdowns and isolation, I have come to appreciate the uniqueness of the people I love even more. My husband has been working from home since March 2020, and it has been fun having a coworker for the first time — although he did take over my office. As a homeschool teacher for fifteen years and now as a writer, I’ve never before had another adult to share in water cooler chit-chat or lunchtime strolls.
Our younger son lives with us, and his fiancée is part of our “pod” as well. When I look back on this season, I’m sure the changes the pandemic brought to our lives will intermingle with the changes of releasing our son into adulthood. My hands have loosened at a slower pace with him than with his older brother, because of his bipolar disorder. The illness delayed some of his launch toward independence as he worked to achieve stability.
Going forward, my son will manage his own medications, appointments, and wellness habits. His future wife will be his primary support person and the first to notice and help him when symptoms crop up. My husband and I, although available to encourage and advise if asked, will no longer be intimately involved in caring for him. I am beyond grateful that after the years of crisis and often-consuming effort, our lives have expanded beyond the demands of a difficult illness.
Is it scary? Yes. It’s not as terrifying as the years when I wondered if my son would survive beyond his teens. But letting go and knowing he will make mistakes, fail at times, or maybe even relapse still drives me trembling to my knees. By God’s grace, I’ve learned I will find comfort and courage there.
Loving someone who has a mental illness carries its own particular dangers, but all love is risky. In the scripture accompanying today’s meditation, we read that Jesus “for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2, NRSV). What was that joy he so eagerly sought? It was us. You and me and every person, with all our quirks, bad habits, beauty, and brokenness. The Lord’s joy was to love us and redeem us just as we are.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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