The Art of Suffering: Part Two

Today I watched a little girl cry. I wasn’t too concerned, mind you. She had a mother who appeared attentive and caring holding her hand, she had on super cute clothes and great shoes, and she had an entire BIG bag of Haribo Gummy-Bears in her hand. I knew she was going to be ok! But I also knew she didn’t know it. Whatever was causing her tears felt like the absolute end of her world at that moment. We have all been there, too, haven’t we? It is hard to imagine life getting better when it feels so, so bad right now.

There’s an old phrase, “Time Heals all Wounds,” that I used to really hate! I think that’s because I was younger (not as young as the gummy-bear girl, but “younger.”) I hadn’t felt enough pain or experienced enough passing of time to know that whatever it is, and I do mean whatever it is, it will get better with time.

I think I learned this most when I lost my very own closer-than-a-sister best friend to brain cancer. Danette was a saint. She had to be to love me so well! For 25 years we shared experiences that spanned the years from being single, through “marrying California men and taking them back to Spokane, WA,” through being married with children. We dreamed of being grandmas together…and then this beautiful, kind, golden-retriever kind of faithful wife, mother and best friend was diagnosed with incurable brain cancer. Within about 15 months she was gone. I spent the last week of her life with her in a Portland hospital rarely leaving her side. When I arrived I took her hand and told her I was there to have a sleep over. She spoke her last word, simply “OK,” and then went into a coma. I still hang onto that “last word.” It was a gift just for me.

After Danette died a week later, I grieved so hard I thought my heart would break. I could not speak about her, even to my husband, for about a year. I thought the pain would never go away. And of course, it won’t. I still miss her everyday. But now, several years later, I realize the truth about time. Time does make suffering more bearable. Time does heal all wounds. When I speak about Danette today I sometimes still cry, but I can also share funny stories and remember the many remarkable moments spent together with a deep and profound sense of gratitude for having been so fortunate to spend 25 years with my best friend.

I use this past experience of suffering to help me today, as a woman diagnosed with my own Stage 4 “incurable” breast cancer. When I was first diagnosed, I wailed in the oncologist’s office, “Oh God! I can’t do this!” And I really did feel like I couldn’t. (Read this part of my story in The Art of Suffering Part One: Transparency) But even though there is nothing that could have prepared me for the terrifying diagnosis of Stage 4 cancer, I have seen what TIME can do to make even that more bearable.

Over the last year I have journeyed from fear to faith, sorrow to hope, and suffering to survival. I am not saying that I could have skipped over the fear, sorrow and suffering and gotten to faith, hope and survival by “simply” remembering that TIME once made my grief of losing a beloved best friend more bearable. But time did. And time is once again helping me suffer.

Time takes the edge off our most painful emotions and helps us think more clearly. Time allows us to be blessed by the kindness of friends - and even strangers - and creates a space for being reminded that we are not alone. Time allows us to be thankful (a powerful antidote to fear and part of my final post next month in Part 3!) Time forces up to get up everyday when we don’t want to because the sun came up and another day started whether we were ready for it or not. Time provides opportunities to do mundane, every day kinds of tasks that help us to connect with the earth and with others who are also doing mundane, every day kinds of tasks; and together we keep the world moving. Time gives us opportunities to laugh. Time gives us the chance to be encouraged, and enlightened by other people’s stories. Time, quite simply, heals. Or perhaps better yet…time allows for healing to occur…as all that we experience over time can kind of smooth over the rough edges of suffering like a steam iron smoothing out the wrinkles of a white linen sheet.

In this series of posts, The Art of Suffering, I have asked the questions, “Can we learn how-to suffer? Can we suffer with more skill, grace, and know-how?” And I have found, once again, the answer to be, “Yes.” I do not think you can skip over whatever you might be suffering through today and simply “feel better” knowing, “Hey! Time heals all wounds!” But I hope you are blessed enough to realize the aide of time in your own suffering. Whatever is hurting you right now, I guarantee, will not be nearly as painful a year from now. As we gather at The Soul Collect, I hope my journey will remind you that in time, your pain will become more bearable. So don’t give up. Journey forward.  

Author: Christine Vatuone | CEO - Informed Choices 








Anna Vatuone