Their life and their limits

Not passive: Cpl. Marcus Chischilly's patient training pays off at the 2014 Marine Corps Trials, Camp Pendleton, California. Public domain photo by Lance Cpl. John Baker via Wikimedia Commons

Not passive: Cpl. Marcus Chischilly’s patient training pays off
at the 2014 Marine Corps Trials, Camp Pendleton, California.
Public domain photo by Lance Cpl. John Baker via Wikimedia Commons

“Experience has taught me this, that we undo ourselves by impatience. Misfortunes have their life and their limits, their sickness and their health.” —  Michel de Montaigne

Experience seems to be teaching me the same things it taught Montaigne, though I may not be learning it as gracefully.  There’s an old saying: “If you don’t like the weather, wait awhile.” From where I sit, that bit of wisdom seems to apply to far more than the weather.

Whether enduring a minor annoyance or a life-changing crisis, people have a remarkable ability to adapt and pull through.  Situations almost never stay exactly the same. Even in the worst of circumstances, some days will be better than others.  Hanging on to that assurance can be a crucial survival skill.

But what to do in the meantime, when it seems things have been gloomy forever? How are we to remain imperturbable when we feel too burned out or discouraged to keep going?

U. S. Marine Corporal Marcus Chischilly could give us some good advice about that.  Corporal Chischilly was serving on his fifth deployment when he stepped on an IED in Afghanistan in October, 2010.  It took him two years to recover from the extensive damage to his body, but as the photo above shows, he emerged from the ordeal with strength, power, endurance and grace befitting the Marines and his Diné (Navajo) heritage.

When I contacted Cpl. Chischilly to seek permission to feature his photograph, he responded humbly and candidly, granting me permission to use his name and photograph, and sharing a bit about his story.   Cpl. Chischilly lives with his wife and children in California, where he returned to active duty following his recovery.  In addition to the military connection, we share their appreciation of California as a great place to live, and their preparation for an upcoming retirement.

We can’t claim to share the amazing fortitude the Chischilly family has shown in service to our country; very few of us can.  But we can be inspired by their story and their patience, not only through two years of recovery from life-threatening wounds, but also through the sacrifices demanded in FIVE wartime deployments.  To say “thank you for your service” is far too inadequate, but even so, I repeat these words to the Chischilly family and add, “thank you for your example.”

I think we err sometimes in assuming that patience is a passive virtue.  In reality, staying active and positive in a chronic struggle is a formidable example of patience, and that type of resolve is anything but passive.  Pressing on toward improvement without expecting instant results might make the difference in defeat or victory over a longstanding challenge.  Staying strong in the face of irreversible losses can lay the foundation for new beginnings.  It sounds trite, but history has shown it to be true.

Calm endurance need not be boring or resigned. While waiting for the skies to clear, distract yourself with the satisfaction of accomplishing small but important tasks, and take refuge in soothing music, art or reading.  Call a friend, play with a dog, or watch a funny video.  Breathe deeply and rejoice in all that remains.  Whatever difficulties or obstacles you may be facing right now, things will almost certainly go better with patience.

29 Comments

  1. blseibel

    Remain imperturbable …wow not easy. I try but fail. Last night on the way home from Ash Wednesday I had a meltdown but today I pick myself up and move on while I wait out this season of turmoil and change. I feel humbled when I think of Cpl. Chischilly. Thank you Julia and thanks Cpl. Chischilly and his family for their service and their inspiration of endurance.

    • I totally identify with what you say; I fail too, often. Sometimes meltdowns just go with the territory. Perhaps we need to allow ourselves some routine crying time to avoid them. I don’t cry much, ever, but the other night I was reading a book where the character talked about going out in a boat and suddenly I had a mental imagine of my Daddy at his boat dock, working on something or other while Jeff, the boys and I went out for a ride in Daddy’s bass boat. I thought about how many things Daddy knew about, how good he was at so many different kinds of things (Eagle Scout 😀 ) and suddenly there the grief came again and I just cried a bit. I think it was good for me. Perhaps your meltdown was at least a little bit therapeutic for you; I hope so.

      I too feel so very humbled at the bravery of folks such as the Chischilly family. While Jeff was in the hospital at Walter Reed, those long, long weeks were made more bearable by the astounding sight of so many service members who were going about their business so routinely even while it was obvious they had been severely wounded. Despite the obvious trials of their recovery I never saw the slightest signs of even minimal frustration, let alone self-pity. Every time I saw one of them it was like an instant attitude adjustment. Now I know where the phrase “soldier on” comes from. We are all the beneficiaries of other people’s willingness to sacrifice. I try not ever to forget that.

      • Beautifully said, Julia.

        • 🙂 Thank you.

      • blseibel

        Oh memories, even tho’ they make us cry, they are wonderful because it means we had someone wonderful in our life. Even though I do not want to move in to my dad’s house and lose my independence I know it will be good for him and I will be thankful later that we had this time. He too, is a wonderful dad and will just need to find a way to live together again as adults in a too small house. Your comments remind me to just be grateful for this time.

        • I am glad you are focusing on the positive aspects of your situation. Changes are so hard, and some are harder than others…but usually there is a payoff hidden inside the hard things that we do for the right reasons. I am sure your father is grateful to have you here to help. I will pray that all goes as it is meant to go in this new phase of your life. Hang in there! Thanks for your encouragement here.

  2. Steve

    I always love great stories of encouragement and intestinal fortitude. I especially liked your proper use of the word Dine’ for the Navajo people. Having worked with them in ministry as well has having found a Code Talker in 2003 living in a nursing home, there is far more depth than one might perceive in this story. Thank you Julia!

    • Steve, I did a term paper on the Diné while we were at Lipscomb. It was the only good thing about my anthropology class, which I had looked forward to but found very boring. (Dr. Long was a nice man but not nearly as fun as Dr. Cotham and Dr. Deese were.) My paternal great-grandmother was supposedly pure Chiricahua, (what most people call “Apache”) and they are from similar regions with at least some shared Athabaskan ancestry. Yes, America’s indigenous history is deep and fascinating. I’ve never read much about the code talkers, but I’d like to. I’ve only ever read one Tony Hillerman book, but I loved it.

  3. Amy

    It does seem that some misfortunes take on a life of their own. Ever growing and changing. I hope your misfortunes are about to wither and that something wonderful will blossom in their place. Love you.

    • Amy, you are so right about that. In fact, cancer itself is such a tough disease because of its shape-shifting ways. We’ll keep praying for the misfortunes to wither. Though we recently shared our yawns over a certain Biblical character, you’ve got to admit he stayed in it for the long haul. Maybe that’s why he’s still a good example for us today.

  4. Julia, Great post and tribute to Cpl. Chischilly and all who serve. He is a wonderful example of what must be endured can be endured.
    G.K. Chesterton said: “A soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.
    The good Cpl. understands love. Because love is sacrifice. And he knows sacrifice as well.
    -Alan

    • Thank you Alan, I loved that quote. I realize this makes me sound old, but sometimes I think that most of us (at least in this country) have had such easy lives, we don’t even understand what true sacrifice is, much less choose to serve in ways that might demand it. We need reminders of how trivial are most of the things that bother us on a daily basis. I’m so thankful for people who can demonstrate that it’s possible to survive under true difficulty, and go on to a rich and full life.

  5. Carolyn

    A good cry is always good for you, makes me feel better. I am so thankful for the sacrifices that our wonderful service men have been through and are still going through. God Bless them all and their families. Tell Jeff to stay strong,our fourth year is getting ready to start. Hugs and love to the family.

    • Hi Carolyn, I was just thinking how amazing it is that the fourth year is upon us and we have, thus far, all lived to tell about it. I wonder how many of Terry’s ROTC students have seen combat conditions. Now that Jeff and I are “old folks” I feel a special awareness of how very young many of these military folks are when they endure these hardships. Hugs and love to you both!

  6. Great post, Julia. Resilience is easier if we have a reason to be. A family we need to care for can fuel a great motivation to persevere. When I start to feel sorry for myself, I just look around a second. That’s all it takes and there is someone doing more with less. Then I’m inspired all over again. I guess that’s why some struggle and some don’t. The struggler who perseveres motivates the rest of us slackers. 🙂

    • Marlene I could never see you as a slacker! But you’re right, other people are a great incentive to keep going. More than one person has remarked that they believed Matt would give Jeff more reason to keep fighting. Hope you have a great week!

  7. Sheila

    Julia, thank you for sharing not only the photo but such a special tribute to Cpl. Chischilly, for his service and also his example, as you beautifully wrote. This was a personal story to me, since prosthetics have been the very fiber of our professional life. Bill has often commented that a good attitude and strong positive desire, will overcome any loose of limb. His biggest challenge is the patient that wants a prosthesis that duplicates what God gave that individual. Not to be! 🙏 In reading the comments, it seems we’ve all had various emotions recently. Occasionally, I’ll have my “I fail down a flight of stairs” moment. Today, while shopping and checking out, I felt so OLD and so SLOW. Later, walking Jack, I decided to take my time and enjoy everything around me MORE! 💛 My life did change with my accident almost five years ago but that fall could have been so much worse! I hope you have a wonderful weekend…. Happy Valentines Day. ❤️

    • Sheila, of course I thought of y’all the moment I saw that photo, as I did so many times at Walter Reed when I would see how gracefully the soldiers there could move around on prosthetic limbs. I can totally identify with feeling OLD and SLOW; in fact, a friend and I were talking about that very thing at church today. I too remind myself that slowing down means having more time to actually SEE things…perhaps that’s nature’s way of making sure we don’t miss as much as we might otherwise? Hope you have a wonderful week!

      • Sheila

        I’m laughing…. thank you so much. My antenna is working just fine! My reputation on Underwood Drive has me right up there with the best detectives. Dixie Tracy, that’s me! Heehee! 🤓

        • Sheila, I’ll remember that next time I have the urge to snoop on someone a mystery to be revealed. 😀

  8. It’s amazing what people like Cpl. Marcus Chischilly have overcome and what they can teach us all about life.

    I think meltdowns are our bodies way of releasing tension and I know crying does the same. I think crying is a sign of strength, not weakness. It allows are feelings to flow out of us, weather the tears be happy ones or sad.

    You have remarkable stamina, Julia. You’ve weathered a lot, and continue to get up, show up, and write this blog. My hat and heart go out to you.

    And Cpl Chischilly, if you are reading, thank you for inspiring us all.

    • Thank you so much Alys– your kindness and encouragement have meant so much to me. I agree, we all need to cry sometimes. I probably need to cry more often than I do.

      I echo your comments to Cpl. Chischilly. I am so glad he was willing to share with us.

      • I think many of us have been conditioned over the years not to cry. There have been times when I needed to cry and couldn’t so I would bring on the tears singing Amazing Grace (which always gets me). Arms around you as you continue this challenging journey, Julia.

  9. Ann

    I feel so humbled by Cpl. Chischilly’s story. Five wartime deployments then the devastating injury; the strength shown by him and his family is truly awe inspiring.

    Your commentary is so helpful to me. Thank you for sharing the wisdom you have gained through life experiences.

    • Thank you, Ann. I really appreciate your presence here, and your encouragement.

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