I brought my kids over to make “pigs in a blanket” at my grandparents’ this week.

They played with giant bubbles, rode on my mom’s rocking horse from the 1950’s, and ran around the billiard table my grandpa keeps in the basement amongst items from a bygone era.

On one wall hangs a quilt put together by my kids’ great-great-grandmother and her quilting club in 1940. On another wall, a small coat rack holds my grandpa’s tennis shoes that he wore playing basketball as a skinny high schooler in Missouri.

One item that stood out to me, as my grandpa gladly explained the uses of each, were the ice block tongs.  It’s a weird thing to care about.  I get it, but as he explained the story behind them, I found it hard not to admire them and the hands that used them, the muscles and backs that moved them from storehouse to train to farmer.

He explained that his father would take 100 pound ice blocks from their point of production to three ice-houses in Atlanta, Missouri, Love Lake, Missouri, and La Plata, Missouri.  From there, he and his father would pack up to 1,100 pounds of ice into their Model A coup, after they removed the rumble seat, and deliver ice to customers’ ice boxes, where they could keep their food fresh for a few days.

He remembers one customer in particular who would give him a horehound candy at each delivery.  How do we store our food today?

We take our milk out of the grocery bag, open the refrigerator door (now this part can be difficult depending on your make and model), place milk on shelf, close door… and done.  No-one loads up their Model A coup.  No-one makes artificial ice on huge fields.  No-one owns ice-houses (except for ice-skating) and I can guarantee you that I never get a horehound when I open my refrigerator door.

So what’s my point?  Things used to be hard.  Every generation says that, but as technology propels us forward, complicated things get simple, and we forget.  As we forget, we complicate.   I think we’re programmed to find problems wherever we go, no matter the ease or the difficulty.

My grandpa, as a boy, helped his father with some difficult work, but he remembers it with fondness.  Let’s be honest.  Life is rarely easy for anyone, ever, but, when you have a chronic disease, or are in the middle of a difficult situation, it can feel like the rest of the world is placing their milk in their refrigerator, while you are out with your ice-pick, a regular Kristoff, laboring away, pulling that hunk of ice into the Model A, and hauling it across the country.

Everyone ELSE has a convenient life, but not you.  Pain is truly terrible, and trust me, I will punch anyone for you who tells you that you should “think positive” and “try to get your mind off the pain”.  If I could get my mind off the pain, I would, dummy – isn’t that kind of the point?!

My rambling in all of this is simply that while things are tough now, and maybe they’ll be tough for a while, maybe one day, you’ll look back and see the beauty in your ice block tongs experience. 

You’ll remember the hard work and determination that it took to do simple things that other people take for granted.

I can’t go for a walk and not thank God for being able to take a step and not feel burning in my belly.

Every cup of coffee, piece of chocolate. and fresh strawberry, I savor, as someone who could not taste any of it for over a year.

I unquestionably do not want to relive my pain, but I can say, now, as I look back on my own history, that it was a beautiful refining process.

The fire hurts, but it does refine. 

Maybe your own battle is raging, or maybe it has been raging for years.  I don’t think it’s happening for a reason.  Don’t believe that you have been flagged for punishment.

BUT, do believe that there is hope for you, and that something nostalgic and beautiful can come from your struggle.

I don’t know why some of us get better and some don’t, but even if you have been sick for years, don’t give up hope.

Healing is still possible.

Your pain may feel like a waste, but it can be turned into the best kind of fertilizer that grows and establishes the next generation.