Writing through Disability, Disease, and Death

Writing through Disability, Disease, and Death

By: Susan Deborah Schiller

From my mini-memoir…

Sixty percent of our North American population relies on some type of drug to control their dis-ease. Anxiety is at an all-time high and stress forms the roots of most infirmity. No one has prescribed anything for me and I don't take any medication; nature, writing, and finding beauty in the ordinary is my medicine. I have faced Death three times and every time, love and beauty have healed me. I need Mother's help, once more.

I'm homeless and the shock and trauma of my husband leaving me for someone else has left me numb. Birds flutter from tree to tree, their songs filling the wide blue expanse of heaven, bringing the beauty right down into my soul. A sole bald eagle soars gracefully from one end of the river to the other, it's piercing eyes no doubt hoping for a great fish dinner. I'd love to have a trout dinner, myself, but I'm content with peanut butter and jelly. 

It's early April in the canyon and the naked trees rustle with last year's brown leaves clinging bravely to bare branches. Next to the Big Horn River is the Fountain of Youth RV Park, home to the largest outdoor hot mineral pools. It's as large as half a football field! 1.4 million gallons of hot mineral water pour into a series of three large pools, cooling off as the water passes from one pool to the next.

Just after sunset the rushing fountain surges with a ruddy glow, it's shooting plumes pulsate like fireworks while the last of the day's puffy clouds part to reveal a midnight blue sky already sparkling with starry diamonds. On the weekends country music wafts through the night as children swim and play ball while parents float side-by-side in the misty water, heads close together, swaying slightly with the waves.

The hot water is thick with mineral content and the rich sodium makes my body pleasantly buoyant, almost as if there is zero gravity in the world. As my own weight diminishes, so the cares of the world melt off my soul and I feel lighter inside and out. My water bed is both pillow and blanket as swirls of mist curl around my face, enveloping me in a cloudy embrace. The air is cool and crisp but I'm as snug and warm as a little girl tucked into a feather bed.

I feel my Father tucking me into His embrace, and He reminds me that He is present all the time, everywhere.

As I soak and soak and soak today I can feel my body shedding the weight of stress and releasing toxic memories, words, and experiences. 

As I watch a bald eagle fly overhead I am reminded of my home in Northwestern Montana where seven bald eagles lived down the road from our house. A river rushed noisily in our front yard as beavers busily constructed dams while mountain lions stalked the beavers for their next dinner. Muskrats and otters filled the water with joyful leaps and dives. A bull frog chorus became the back up musicians for a butterfly choreography performed by thousands of fluttering blue and lavender beauties.

Thinking about joyful and beautiful things helps to relieve the grief.

I miss home. My heart was only just beginning to mend in that haven of beauty and rest. Not many people understand the peculiar stress of being the sole caretaker of a severely injured husband. Days of anxiety and sleepless nights turned into years of never knowing if the pain was going to win and he would end his own life. I can't count the number of times he slung his rifle over his shoulder and walked out of the house, telling me he wouldn't be back.

Always watching, always on call. Missing my friend who could no longer take walks with me, who no longer seemed himself. On drugs normally reserved for terminal cancer patients, something changed in our relationship.

Who cares for the caretaker?

There's a season for everything. Winter is passing and a chubby robin hopping among the dandelions is a welcome harbinger of Spring. And so, in my own soul, Spring is here. I just needed a place to soak, a place to just "be" … a place that would remind me of home.

My husband, after he healed, left me behind. He needed to begin a fresh life, a new life, he said. He said we worshiped different gods and his god told him to leave me behind. I had always lived in the shadow of his presence. All attention was focused on him, as I cared for him 24/7. I put my whole life on pause to put his life story in the spotlight. Somehow I lost myself.

As I look back on those years – the years my ex-husband calls "wasted" – I don't see those years as wasted at all. I discovered that A Wasted Life is the Very Best Life of all. 

When he deserted me and left me stranded in the wilderness with a broken truck and a broken heart, I landed in this beautiful place. I was homeless and destitute but God met me here. He showed me signs of his love, like that rainbow over the mountain right in front of my campsite along the Big Horn River. I discovered that God was there, too, and He taught me to listen to the voice of the moonflower and to dance in the dark.

I learned to receive Love in the darkness. I learned to give love, even for the one who hurt me. I learned to love in a way that ushers Light into the darkness. I'm grateful for these lessons, and now I'm learning to love and trust again. Each "mission impossible" takes me deeper into the Father's heart of love. 

I love the solitude of the hot mineral springs before tourist season opens. Maybe one day doctors will treat the caretaker as diligently as the sick patient, but in the meantime Creation is teaching me the hidden value of soaking in beauty and truth.

Nature is healing the inner wounds only a long-term caretaker or one who was severely injured will understand. A geothermal pool, burnished reddish-orange cliffs, a soaring bald eagle, a chubby robin, and dandelions are my "medicine".

When someone tells me a loved one is disabled, dying, or diseased, I'm not as afraid as I used to be. I feel their pain and grief, but I know God is there in the darkness and even in the deepest pit. I know, not in theory, but in experience. 

Perhaps the best way to overcome disease, disability, and death is to embrace love, beginning with loving ourselves.

Bad people will keep doing bad unless we learn to love, and the first person we need to love, is ourselves, for in doing so, we find God, in the center of our heart. Abusers rarely succeed in abusing a person who loves and cares for herself well.

Today, I needed to be reminded of this truth, and so I have republished this article. I hope it will inspire you to write a hard story. Write in such a way so as not to put the focus on the person who harmed you, but on what you learned about yourself, how you healed, what you did to get over the pain. You may need to write all the pain out of it first… and don't worry about the finished product. The story will write itself if you let it come out… you may be surprised!

Always remember: Even a seemingly tiny story can travel great distances and you never know, that very story could be just the answer for a soul lost in darkness today, and perhaps that soul is you!


My Full Story     What I Believe    Contact Me

With all my love,


Susan Schiller knows how it feels to lose everything: marriage and family, church and reputation, finances and businesses, and more. Susan's upcoming, interactive memoir, "On the Way Home," tells the story of how she came to be known as "the most abused woman" her counselors had yet met and how she learned to navigate to freedom and fullness.  

Today Susan helps people write their life stories, unearthing the treasures of their past and sowing them into their future, creating new family legacies.

Copyright © 2010 to 2015 Team Family Online, All rights reserved.   For reprint permission or for any private or commercial use, in any form of media, please contact Susan Schiller

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge

{ 2 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post:

2010-2016 All Rights Reserved. No information on this website has been evaluated by the FDA. The information presented is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Consult your physician before undertaking the suggestions on this site. Actual results will vary depending upon the individual and their commitment to the steps set out here. Testimonials are from real persons who are readers of this blog. Before using this site, please read our Website Agreement, which contains terms and conditions, plus our privacy notice. Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links on this site are “affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”