Lessons from Nana…the elevator


Lessons from Nana…
Nana had a doctor’s appointment today. That’s not unusual, except for the fact of where it was located – on the second floor of a building with only elevator access. Seriously, only personnel are allowed to use the stairs. It makes no sense to me and isn’t a big deal to most people. But, it’s a BIG deal to me.

You see, I have an irrational fear of elevators. I’ve struggled with this since I was 4 years old.
While some people can’t remember back that far, I remember “the incident” that left me traumatized like it was yesterday.

My 4 yr old preschool class was being escorted by a teenage volunteer from one floor of the building to the next. Okay, fine. But it’s what he did once we were on the elevator that has scarred me for life.

He wildly began to push ALL of the buttons! The elevator jumped and jolted. The lights went out. The alarm rang. The doors opened between floors. All of this was happening to a group of preschoolers who can’t even tie their shoes.

We were crying. We were petrified. He laughed at us.

Eventually, he said to us as the doors opened on the correct floor, “Do you want to get off?” We all quivered and cried our response, “Yes!” He said, “No!” And did it all over again. I was never the same after that.

What this guy didn’t know (or care given his reckless behavior) were two things:
1. I wrestle with high anxiety and have my entire life. It’s a genetic thing going back generations.
2. At that time, I lived in a home with a stepfather who terrified me so my anxiety was fever-pitch level!! He was a scary man who utterly robbed me of my childhood. He married my mom (who she thought was her hero, but turned out to be her villian) when I was 4 yrs old. Life went downhill after that. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say I had an unhealthy fear of authority figures, as well as major daddy issues, for a very long time and a LOT of forgiveness to work out.

I’ve avoided elevators over the decades to a ridiculous extent. I’ve seen the back hallways of plenty of buildings and been escorted by security and staff hundreds of times over my life taking stairs not meant for the public.
I’ve been embarrassed to ask staff ride WITH me on elevators when stairs were impossible for security reasons.
But oh how many stairs I’ve climbed.

Once I climbed 32 flights of stairs for an entire weekend to avoid an elevator ride to the 16th floor hotel room.

I will climb 12-14 flights no problem if it means I can take the typically forgotten, smelly, dingy stairs.

So when my MIL moved down here to live out her years, one thought I had was, “As her health declines, I’m going to have to take elevators so as to accompany her to appointments.”

And here we are. Her oncologist is on the 7th floor. Her surgery was on the 2nd floor. Her primary doctor is on the 2nd floor. Her orthopedist is on the 2nd floor. Her other oncologist is on the 3rd floor. Her endocrinologist is on the 2nd floor. Her neurologist is on the 2nd floor. I know this because those elevators are etched in my mind as often stairs aren’t available.

When I must use an elevator, if it even remotely feels off, doors slow to close, etc. I’m out. My wonderful husband is used to this. He’s trucked many stairs with me and doesn’t say a word when staff tries to point us to back stairwells with odd looks on their faces like “WHY???”

When visiting a friend in the hospital recently, I traversed 5 different sets of staircases, several flights each – all with a dead end. I had to ask the front desk staff to escort me to a stairwell that was blocked off, only to find it led me to the wrong part of the building. Ug.

Today, her appointment was in a building with no stair access. Let me rephrase that…no public stair access. The last time we were here, a maintenance man happened to be in the lobby and I asked him about stairs. He was a retired firefighter and with both of his credentials I asked him to ride up with me, stopping short of wanting to hide behind him. The amazing man actually waited for our appointment and got permission to walk me down the staff-only stairs. However, today I was on my own.

I woke up with palms sweating and heart racing – over the thought of ONE lousy flight on an elevator. I HATE this about myself.

But here’s where Nana’s lesson enters. She’s relying on me. She can’t go to these appointments by herself.
In addition to the evil angiosarcoma eating her body alive at an alarming rate, her Alzheimer’s is getting worse. Though she can easily carry on on a conversation, she cannot tell the check-in receptionist any personal data past her birthday.

With each question, she looks at me in total fear. I HAVE to be there to be her voice; to advocate for her; to ask the questions; discuss options; to receive take-home instructions; and be a calming presence for her in these difficult conversations.

Why is this important to me? Because I love her. We are family. I call her Naomi and myself Ruth.

Love is a choice. My husband says often that every day he chooses love. We all choose love.

The hard part is when loving pushes us past what we can endure. It forces us beyond our limits. It makes us face our fears. It takes the control away from us and we don’t like that.

For me, I feel more brave observing, with my own eyes, the devastating effects of her cancer than to step one foot on the elevator with Nana and her walker.

However, something happens when she and I are waiting for the steel doors to open. I’m no superwoman. I don’t become less afraid and do pray HARD the entire 15 second ride that feels like 15 hours. But choosing LOVE overrides the fear. Focusing on being there for HER makes me focus less on this irrational, trauma-driven fear.

This Christmas, what is LOVE asking you to do? See people you’d rather not? Go places you don’t want to be? Spend time doing things you’d rather not do?

I encourage you to LEAN into the discomfort, the awkward, and even the ridiculousness of what’s happening (as long as it doesn’t hurt yourself or others) and let love’s voice be louder.

Let LOVE be louder than who’s right…or wrong. Let LOVE be stronger than our own agendas, preferences and personalities. Let LOVE be our speech, our thoughts, and our actions. Let LOVE be how we make people feel.

LOVE keeps everything in perspective. It is the voice of reason. It is the WHY behind what we do. Afterall, as believers we live for God and God is love, 1 John 4:8.

And when LOVE comes first, the fears in our lives become less. And that’s a win for everyone. “Perfect love drives out fear,” 1 John 4:18.

And when you can’t…LOVE can. “It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres,” 1 Corinthians 13:7.

You never know what can happen in a life driven by selfless love. It drove Jesus to a cross.

John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Jesus says in Matthew 5:43-45, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven…” These two Scriptures cover everyone. So yeah, we should love everyone.

LOVE takes us on a journey we don’t always feel prepared for. It requires more of us than we want to give. It asks too much of us. But LOVE is so worth it, as are the people with whom we share it.

The crazy thing about LOVE is, the more we give into it, the more we get out of it. I pray you get the MOST out of this Christmas. And, enjoy the ride. 

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