Written by L.A. Darroch
“Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30 NLT)
When I was about two years old and Mom was pregnant with my sister, my dad was diagnosed with polycythemia vera (a type of blood cancer). My earliest memories revolve around hospitals. One especially vivid memory is of a time my mother, sister and I went to visit my dad, and I said something about “when you come home.” My dad hugged me close, but I didn’t realize then that he was holding back tears because my dad wasn’t sure he WAS going to come home. I couldn’t even imagine my daddy not coming home.
Eventually, he recovered enough to return to work as an auto body teacher at a local technical college, and to go back to school for a Bachelor of Education degree. Perhaps because some of his students had learning disabilities, my father also pursued a special education certificate. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to finish his studies.
One morning before Christmas break of my 5th grade year, my sister and I woke up to discover that my dad was in the bathroom vomiting. My mom walked us to daycare before school, and I spent the morning worried because the smell coming from the bathroom was odd. What I didn’t know was that blood vessels had burst in his throat, and he was throwing up blood. Later that morning, he called 911 and was taken to the hospital.
My uncle took over drop off and pickup at daycare, and I remember having to get up very early. This was also a difficult time for me, as two of my friends were bullying me. It wasn’t the first or the last time this would happen, but the timing didn’t help.
Dad missed a lot while he was in the hospital but was promised a day pass for Christmas. I remember opening my gifts Christmas morning and wishing he was there. It wasn’t Christmas for me until we were all together again at my grandmother’s. He had to go back overnight before being released on Boxing Day.
My mom took on the role as the primary provider and caregiver for our family. To this day, I will never understand how she managed everything. My dad eventually transitioned from sick leave to disability. My father lost a lot, but even so he did all he could to be there as a parent to us. He drove me and my sister to school every day, except once that I remember. On that day, I had to get my sister to school on the city bus alone after a snowstorm.
While that was the first big dose of responsibility my parents had given me, I had taken on a lot on my own. From an early age, I knew that I did not want to disappoint them. I wasn’t a perfect child, but I rarely got in trouble. As a teenager, when others were out at parties, I was at home. While I wanted to fit in, as someone whose childhood made me old before my time, I knew the choices others my age were making weren’t good ones. I also didn’t want to put any extra stress on my parents.
Taking on extra responsibility and struggling to fit in made me an anxious child, and later a depressed teenager and young adult. While I didn’t intend to bring more stress to my parents, my depression did. Sadly, my father passed away before I was healed of depression. I wish he could have seen me smile again on this side of heaven.
Looking back now, I know my parents did their best to make sure that I had moments where I could be a kid. While we couldn’t go to Disneyland, we did have family vacations. I still played sports and had birthday parties.
Being a child of a parent with a chronic illness is difficult. As a family member or trusted adult, the best things you can do are to ensure they have experiences where they can still be kids and to be there for them. Make sure they aren’t taking grown-up responsibilities. Let them know it’s okay to express their emotions. And most importantly of all, pray for them.
Because of my childhood and my personality, I developed an immense capacity for compassion. As a result, I’m prone to overextending myself and feeling emotionally involved in the problems of others. Jesus is helping me learn not to take on too much and to set boundaries. He’s also helped me to see that there are some things little shoulders were never meant to carry.
Jesus wants to take on the weight we’ve experienced as children and often carry into our adult lives. I know that while it can be all too easy to fall back into my childhood patterns, Jesus doesn’t condemn me when I do. Instead, He offers a helping hand and takes on what my shoulders are still too little to carry. He’s patient as He knows I’m still learning His ways, and to trust Him more fully. And each time He reminds me to give those things back to Him, it’s with grateful tears that I do, because I’m not the one who’s supposed to carry the weight of the world. That’s His job. Mine is to trust that He can and to let Him. And, of course, to let the light He put in me shine to share His love.
L.A. Darroch is a Christian author with a heart for writing about the persecuted church and other stories that touch the hearts of readers for God’s glory. She seeks to use her writing to encourage readers to “Speak Life.” She credits her late father with introducing her to a passion for reading. She lives in Winnipeg, Canada and is owned by a very smart cat named Bathsheba.
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