I was reminded recently how small one's world can become. She has been ill and in the hospital for weeks. The world has shrunk to being about her and her body. The attention is on the disease and the doctors and nurses focus on her and the bacteria that will not respond to the treatment.
When I have visited, I want to know all that is going on. (When we get anxious we seek more and more data, hoping that if we can just understand what is happening we might be able to do something about it). I am tempted to keep the attention on her and her disease, her care, her pain, her energy, her prognosis.
But, then she asked me "How are YOU ALL doing." The emphasis was on "YOU ALL". And I was reminded of what I have always known: When we are sick our world can shrink and smother us. We need to know what else is going on. There is so much of our time when the pain and fear of our own suffering can't be avoided that we long for something that takes us outside of ourselves.
So, when you are with people who are suffering disease or caught in the slog of sadness over loss, share with them their suffering. Be open to walking with them in their pain. But, also bring your own life into them and give them a taste of the rest of the world. Help open them up to the reality of life as they have known it so that they can feed off the hope for a life that is large enough that they don’t suffocate.