Rhonda Herrington Bulmer
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June 10th, 2016
For all those in dry places
by Rhonda Herrington Bulmer


I broke last night.

For the last seven months I have indulged myself a brief moment of tears every couple of days, but last night my whole body cracked into several pieces. I came as close to a panic attack as I ever have in my life. I was sure my heart would stop at any moment and I would cease to exist.

Since last November I have been the “fixer” for my parents’ life crisis. After a rush to the hospital last winter and 13 weeks of testing, my father received a diagnosis which required him to leave his home and enter a special care facility. His angry world spun out of control and my mother’s with him. Being the only sibling who lives close by, it fell to me to be:

their health advocate,

their spokesperson,

their medical translator and/or diplomat.

Their chauffeur (since his license was also taken),

their personal shopper,

their personal secretary,

their bookkeeper,

and their real estate agent.

If I have disliked this necessity, they have deplored it. To say this has been an unpleasant journey is an understatement. It has been a pilgrimage through the emotional wreckage of my parents’ lives. I know things I don’t want to know. I know things they don’t want me to know.

What has been even more unsettling is that I have recognized quite a few of those broken pieces scattered in the desert. They are also mine—I simply haven’t crash landed yet. As my father helpfully said in the hospital, “Someday this is going to be you, you know!”

The process of cataloguing and dispatching 50 years’ worth of stuff on behalf of emotionally-battered parents who can’t accept that it must be done in the first place (while you simultaneously try to muffle your own emotions) is difficult enough.

But no crisis descends in a vacuum. No one has the luxury of prior knowledge so that they may first clear their schedule. Nope, I was already journeying through the desert with my heavy backpack and my empty water bottle, when more cargo was dumped in my arms.

This was my middle kid’s graduation year, and I missed it. I was here, but I missed it. The ceremony is in two weeks and I will cry, not just because I am proud of her, but because I mourn the loss of time. I had no time to savour the last few precious months with my child in my house. No time to simply sit and be and prepare myself for the landmark changes to come.

Also, I’ve had no time to work over the past few months and my financial situation is dire. Finding a job will be the priority once my parents’ house closing is complete.

And last week, I received two more fiction rejections on the same day, which caused me to question my dogged determination to keep writing when I could be involved in more practical things—like paying bills. It feels like I’ve been pounding my head against a brick wall for more than a decade.

Maybe I don’t have the chops and I can’t face it?

This typical reaction to the many rejections I have received was stronger because my father currently gazes into the abyss and right now is haunted by all the goals he never achieved. Some things were achievable and he simply chose not to. Some things were not and he let them go. Some things didn’t matter either way, but by God, he wishes he had time to do them all.

I am 48. There are likely fewer days ahead than there are behind. I have not achieved my most beloved goals, either. Are they achievable? Should I keep trying, or am I climbing a staircase to nowhere?

Such thoughts boggle the mind, but especially when one is so full of the worry and cares of others.

So last night, as I stood in the kitchen, something broke inside.

I cried on my husband’s shoulder while he stroked my hair and murmured words of comfort, but it wasn’t enough. I felt squeezed on the inside, nauseous and empty of breath. My legs were weak and I felt my physical heart crumble, dissolve, evaporate, and then disappear.

It’s too much. All at once, it’s too much. God help me.

And then something broke through my desolation, a process which continues to astound me. In my mind I heard two quiet words. `

Worship me.

What came next to mind, unbidden, were the words of an old hymn:

I hear the Saviour say
Thy strength indeed is small
Child of weakness watch and pray
Find in me thine All in All.
Jesus paid it all
All to him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow.

I mouthed the words in a whisper and the tremulous melody issued in spurts between my sobs. And as the truth of it sunk in, I felt the weight on my chest lift.

I breathed.

I cried in relief, not in panic. And then I was peaceful enough to talk about it. Today, I chose to write about it.

All the problems I discussed before still exist. I’m still in the desert, and I’m not quite sure how things will work out. But I look down at my water bottle, and it is no longer empty.

Why do such words have the power to lift me out of a bereft place? How does the idea that Christ died on the cross eliminate my panic attack?

Because it proves to me that life is not hopeless and that there exists something—someone—far bigger than I who is in control and through whom everything will ultimately be made right. I don’t have to respond perfectly and I don’t have to have all the answers.

I am a child of weakness. When all the pieces of my life come apart and no human can repair it, He can put me back together. He has done it before and He will do it again.

12 Responses to “For all those in dry places”

  1. Suzanne LeBlanc says:

    So sorry that you are going through all this! Beautifully shared. So grateful for a great God who can repair anything. I will pray for every grace in this.

  2. Joy says:

    Bless you! I happened upon you completely by accident – so thankful I did! My heart weeps and rejoices with you. Bless you for your authenticity, for your courage, in your brokenness. Holding you and your family up in prayer.

  3. Karen Shorey says:

    I cried with you and then I smiled as I could see the gentle hands of the Holy Spirit filling your water bottle and picking up the pieces. Worship. It’s our anchor!!! Thank you for sharing your heart.

  4. Marlene says:

    My dear friend… My heart goes out to you as I know what a tough time this has been for you. There is nothing I can say or do that will make you feel better, this I know. Yet that ‘someone bigger than I’ will help you get through this trying time. The old Yiddish saying “Man plans… God laughs” comes immediately to mind. You’ve done more than your fair share in looking after your parent’s affairs. Cut yourself some slack, girl. And somewhere along the line take a break from all of this. I’m just a call away, and for you, my time is always free :-) Hugs! xxoo

  5. Debbie Dussault says:

    Oh Rhonda, I am overwhelmed with how you bared your heart but that’s how healing comes. You are such a special person!!

  6. Yolande Léger says:

    My dear Rhonda, you’re an excellent writer, a faithful and loving daughter and an amazing mother! I’ve experienced the way you’re being squeezed and have such a full heart for what you’re going through; and am so happy at how God is faithful and that He refreshed you. Incredible!! But, true! :) He’s definitely the one to go to.

    I remember being told by my Mom that I’d be experiencing what she was going through…I think she might have been trying to prepare me for what she felt was inevitable. But, I’m putting my hope in Jesus and in the plans He has for me, and all of us who believe! I know that what He has planned for us will be spectacular!!

    Sending virtual hugs!! Will have to plan to see you so as to give you a real one!! <3

    love, Yolande xox

    • Thanks, Yolande. Yes, I’m sure your mom meant to prepare you for the difficulties ahead. Perhaps it was merely the experience of her generation and my parents’ alike: they expected more trouble than good times. Let us strive to think differently. “God has not given us a spirit of fear.”

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