(Massive spoiler ahead if you haven’t read or watched any of The Lord Of The Rings trilogy.)
Owning a bookstore gives me certain unalienable rights. One of those is to have a mild-to-moderate obsession with Lord Of The Rings, the trilogy by JRR Tolkien. Not only did this series pave the way for most of the high fantasy series we have today, but it touched my heart in a personal and real way.
I struggle with insomnia. No idea why, but I do know that several times a week, I find myself either sleeping fitfully or not at all. A few months back, I had a few nights in a row where I just couldn’t fall asleep. So, what did I do to fill those long empty hours? I watched the Director’s Cut of the entire LOTR trilogy. While watching the 8-9 hours worth of film, I began to take notice of a character who gets little to no credit, but might be one of the bravest people ever imagined.
I’m, of course, talking about Samwise Gamgee.
That’s right, the fat one.
As I re-watched the films, I felt my heart break again and again for Sam and was moved far beyond words as I watched him deny himself over and over for the friend he loves most.
I found myself relating to him more so than I ever had before. It’s not hard to imagine why. As you all know by now, my wonderful beautiful wife struggles daily with chronic PTSD and Dissociative disorder. We’ve been on the long journey to healing for three years now, and we know we’ve only just begun. Like Frodo, Cathy did not ask for this burden, this task, or this journey to begin upon. It was thrust upon her and now we’re here, inextricably intertwined with the path to healing.
And like Sam, I kind of, well, I kind of got on by accident.
Sam didn’t know that eavesdropping on Frodo and Gandalf would lead to such an adventure anymore than I knew that going to Ruby Tuesday’s to meet some new people would change my life. (To be fair, visits to chain restaurants rarely change lives.)
But now, I’m on the road to recovery, right alongside my beautiful bride. It’s not my recovery we’re seeking, or my destiny we’re fulfilling. I, like Samwise, am not the focus here. I’m here to support, to carry, to love, to encourage, and to press on with Cathy. Like Sam, I made a promise to never leave her.
And I’m not the only Sam out there. If you’re spouse, child, parent, friend, or loved one has started the painstaking adventure to healing and recovery, and you have joined them, you too can relate to Samwise Gamgee’s story. Just as Sam will never know the burden Frodo must carry, we will never truly know how hard it is for our loved ones to endure what they must.
But we do know that, like Sam, we will sacrifice anything, endure everything, and do it while asking nothing in return because that’s what you do when the person you love most needs it.
And then, when all is well and we think everyone will just live happily ever after, Frodo leaves with Gandalf and the elves to go to where he now belongs. And Sam, though teary-eyed, must let him go. Sam’s love for Frodo doesn’t allow selfishness, even though it does allow the pain of loss. Like Sam, we must continue on sacrificing for the one we love. And, like Sam, we must continue allowing them to heal, even if it calls for things we can’t possibly think we’ll get through (which is, in my opinion, exactly how Sam must have felt in that moment) because we know, in the end, it’s not exactly about care-taking any more. The broken wing’s mended, and they will be able to fly on their own.
Whether the one you’re taking care of is a friend, spouse, child, or loved one, one day they will be healed enough to fly on their own. Sometimes that means they will leave your home, go on their own, and use their healed-ness to be more independent. If that happens, you must let them. It doesn’t mean good-bye forever, as it does with Sam, but it does mean that you’ve done it.
That you’ve accomplished your goal.
This post doesn’t contain any advice, but Lord knows, sometimes we don’t need any more advice. Sometimes all we need is a voice out there saying that they see what you do, and they know. Even if no one else ever does, I know how hard you work. I know how much you give up. I know how much you love the one you’re taking care of, and I know you would do it all over again if it meant taking care of them.
You are Sam.
Then you know that Sam was the true hero of the tale. That he faced far greater and more terrible foes than he ever should have had to face, and did so with courage. That he went alone into a black and terrible land, stormed a dark fortress, and resisted the most terrible temptation of his world for the sake of the friend that he loved. That in the end, it was his actions… that made it possible for light to overcome darkness.
-Jim Butcher, Changes