Known and Unknown

As a fond mother, when the day is o’er,
   Leads by the hand her little child to bed,
   Half willing, half reluctant to be led,
   And leave his broken playthings on the floor,
Still gazing at them through the open door,
   Nor wholly reassured and comforted
   By promises of others in their stead,
   Which, though more splendid, may not please him more;
So Nature deals with us, and takes away
   Our playthings one by one, and by the hand
   Leads us to rest so gently, that we go
Scarce knowing if we wish to go or stay,
   Being too full of sleep to understand
   How far the unknown transcends the what we know.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow “Nature”

I remember being reluctant to go to bed as a child; I could miss something important that the adults waited to do until after I was asleep, or I wasn’t sure that I wanted to turn myself over to my dreams.

I had a period of time when I was in third grade (during the Cuban missile crisis) when I really was terrified to go to sleep, and ended up reading comic books during the night hours, trying to keep myself distracted from whatever fears I harbored. My mother, frantic for sleep herself during this worrisome time, consulted my pediatrician who prescribed orange juice with a tablespoon of brandy – for me, not for her. She was outraged at the thought, being a teetotaler, so bought no brandy for me (or for herself). I eventually got over my sleep issues, but not my worried heart.

The unknown is always more frightening than the known, and the older I got, the more I learned during 24 years of formal education and training, the more I realized I didn’t know. There would be no end to it. Even though I still spend several hours a week reading for required and non-required continuing medical education, I don’t crack the surface of everything that is news in my profession. There is a whole lot that I need to un-learn because it is now proven that it is no longer valid as it originally was over four decades of medical practice.

During the last three months of COVID-19, it is like drinking from several firehoses at once, as data on this previously unknown virus comes piecemeal from countless sources: the studies are rushed and sample sizes are small, conclusions are tentative, often barely peer-reviewed and sometimes disproven the next week by another study. What was considered “fact” a month ago may no longer be so.

So I know I must settle into the reality that there will always be plenty of unknowns, particularly as I reluctantly let go of life’s playthings one by one.

The unknown will always transcend the known on this side of the veil so I appreciate that I am gently led, in faith, to that long-awaited sleep that was so elusive before.

3 thoughts on “Known and Unknown

  1. Just talked with my dad again. He pities me. I pity him. He says he doesn’t hold it against me that he’s there, but I do hold it against myself. I can tell he’s losing ground. Last year when I visited him daily, I got him out of his room for a walk or a ride in the car. There was stimulation for the senses and the mind. Now he sits there 24/7 in a room by himself…eating alone. I do the same 10 minutes away. Thankfully, he is alert enough to make and receive calls from family and friends.

    I wonder what the PA Secretary of Health is thinking about. She moved her 95 year old mother from a personal care facility to a hotel. Actions speak louder than words. She and the Governor of PA and the nursing home associations or someone needs to come up with a few ideas. We can’t let our parents wither away with depression and loneliness. Which is worse? To die or to die alone with no family nearby.

    My dad is in a good and caring facility, but they can’t provide like the family can provide emotional support. I’m sorry to comment again. I think I’m not going to write another comment and then I feel frustrated and need to vent. Sometimes I vent in your direction. As I waked this evening, I was thinking…we need some hope. We need some indication of when we might see each other again. We talk often. Many times a day. But that’s not like being in the same space.

    The unknown these days just goes on and on. We have been reading the Upper Room together and often he says it fits me. Tonight it talked about fear and the need to maintain hope. Yes, that’s what we need to do, but it is getting harder.


  2. Linda, my heart & prayers go out to you! My sis only had to be in “lock down”, w.o. Visitors for 1 wk. before the Lord took her. I am so thankful, as visitors were the “bright spot” of her day! I pray you will soon be united wi your Dad, & your hearts be “eased” til that day when you can hug again!
    I still miss my sis terribly but all the encouragement from God, here & others has been so helpful!
    Mary Jo

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I can’t imagine the isolation that families are experiencing. I know when my mother spend her last nine months in the local extended care facility I felt horrible if I missed a day of visiting, and now my friends are trying their best to see their parents, with vision and hearing issues, through windows, or iPads. I know you are suffering with the inability to care for him as you long to. I hope this will ease soon, there are many who are struggling just as you and your dad are. Hugs to you, Emily


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