Emily M. DeArdo

writer

Burdens

essays, family, life issuesEmily DeArdo1 Comment

Kelly at This Ain’t The Lyceum wrote a great piece about how everyone is a burden to someone at some point in her life. It’s not just people who are disabled, or poor, or old, or whatever. ALL of us were, or will be, a “burden” to someone.

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One of the things you hear when people talk about assisted suicide is that they don’t “want to be a burden” to their loved ones. But think about it. Babies are inherently a burden to their parents. They can’t do anything for themselves. We all started there, and we’ll probably all go back there as we get older.

This touched me specially because I had a call with a “disability caseworker” last week, and I’m working through the SSDI application process. This entire process is dehumanizing and humiliating. It boils down to what you can do, and strips away anything else. So at the end of this call, which involved both my parents, I burst into tears.


“Why are you crying?!” My parents asked.

“Because these things are so humiliating. I feel like such a burden to everyone, I can’t do anything, you guys are just stuck with me forever! No one wants me!”

“We want you,” my parents said.

And then they reminded me that they really did want me. This wasn’t just parents saying what they’re supposed to say (like when you ask your boyfriend if a dress makes you look fat. There’s a right answer to that question.).

My parents really wanted me. They prayed hard for me. They got married in 1979 and I didn’t appear until 1982. My mom always wanted to be a mother. They prayed hard for me, and, in an example of God taking people seriously, Mom had said in her prayers that she would take a baby who needed extra care, because she knew she could love and take care of that baby.

And believe me, she has. The things my parents have done for me would take a really long time to explain, but here’s just a bit of it:

  • Many, many, MANY ER runs (One during the Super Bowl, when the Steelers were playing. My parents are huge Steeler fans.)

  • Monthly blood draws when I was a toddler.

  • Driving to Cleveland in a snowstorm for an appointment.

  • Many many many overnight hospital stays

  • Learning how to reconstitute medicines and give them via an IV, even 8 or twelve hours—yeah, that means middle of the night stuff. WHEEEE!

  • Beating on my chest twice a day, every day, as part of daily CF therapy (now that’s not really needed, there are inventions that take care of it, but back then, not so much).

  • Many insurance phone calls

  • Learning how to dress a third degree burn, and then doing the dressing at the kitchen table, which was just par for the course at our house.


It’s a lot. And I’d be lying if I said I never felt like a burden to them, because I do. Our society makes it clear of what it thinks about “people like me”. I’ve had people tell me, to my face, that I shouldn’t exist. That’s sort of hard to deal with. And as I get older, I get increasingly sadder about this fact that I’m not married, so my parents have to handle everything for me, because I don’t have a husband to help out. (Not that every husband would help out….)

But really, Kelly’s right—we’re all burdens. We just are, it’s part of being human. We depend on each other. Think about it. Even a “normal” kid needs mom and dad’s helps. Even “normal” adults need help every once in awhile. We can’t do everything ourselves, it’s just not possible.

But we see this as being wrong, and as something that needs eliminated. Sure, we all want to be independent. I am very glad, for example, that I can use the bathroom by myself, because having gone through periods of my life where I’ve had to wait for a bedpan or three nurses to help me, I do not take that ability for granted. But you know, there are times when I haven’t been able to do that, when mom has had to wash my hair, or Dad has had to call AAA because I can’t call them.

It can be a lot. It can be humiliating, and it can be depressing. As a society, we need to really focus on the person, because we are all God’s chosen people, in that, God willed us into existence. This is my existence.

I’m glad that I am independent, in some ways. I’m glad that I don’t need to rely on my parents for everything. But at the same time, I know that even when I have needed that, they’ve answered. And I know some parents don’t—I don’t know them personally, but I’ve seen them, I’ve heard the horror stories. I’m lucky.

People are people to be loved, not to be called burdens or dismissed because of it. Really, we could all be burdens to God. Think about how slow we are. I mean, doesn’t he ever sit up there and just facepalm? Seriously, humanity?! WE COVERED THIS!!!!!

But God made us anyway. People love us anyway. Our worth isn’t about what we can do or what job we have or anything external. Worth is internal.