“He who learns must suffer and Even in our sleep pain which cannot forget…falls drop by drop upon the heart until in our own despair against our will comes wisdom through …the awful (awesome) grace of God” -Aeschylus
As another year has whizzed on by, I am beginning to reflect on the year’s events particularly as so many of my Parkinson’s patients have gone to be with the Lord this year.
First, I am eternally grateful I had the opportunity to be part of the life of so many wonderful individuals and families who took me into their homes even after I stopped practicing. Particularly grateful I am to have shared this life’s journey with many Parkinson’s women who were also pillars in my community. Their faith and struggles with this chronic illness has served as a living testament to the grace of God in theirs, as well as in my life.
One such lovely lady, whom I had the pleasure of caring for; once asked her mother as a child if “God (Jesus) could come next year,” yes her mother replied. “Mom, could he come next month?” Yes, sweet child. “Could he come tomorrow? But, of course he can sweet girl. “Could he come today?” Yes, sweet child. “Then, mom could you hurry up and do my hair.”
As I learned of this story recently from the family member of my dear precious patient’s love for God, I was reminded of how that kind of love and enthusiasm is what this season is about. Even when she got PD later on in life she was always prepared and thankful sharing her love with others.
We should all strive to have such a spirit of gratitude every day of our lives not just during special seasons. I know it is hard to feel grateful or happy when tragedy strikes or when life does not go according to plan. But, one way to help us remember that adversities are not just a part of life but sometimes are meant to bring out the good in us. If we always went about our lives without a care or struggle, we would take things for granted as many of us did before we became ill. Imagine spending your whole life as an athlete training for a competition (a Race) that will never take place. Not only is it disheartening but most likely many of us would start slacking off. The biggest travesty would be to never know if we really had what it took to finish the goal.
Sometimes in order to bring the best to the surface we have to be sifted like wheat or dumped in hot water as a tea bag in order to reveal its (our) strength as Eleanor Roosevelt would say. This means that sometimes we must deal with adversity in our life’s which sometimes comes in the form of a chronic illness like Parkinson’s.
My patients have taught me that you have to take the good with the bad and make the best of it. Some of the saddest times in my life were also the most fulfilling and fruitful. For instance, when my father became ill with cancer and was ravaged by it, I spent countless hours agonizing over his care, his health, and coming to grip with the idea of losing him yet at same time I completed my book –Parkinson’s Diva – partially inspired by the loss of my dad and grandparents.
Looking back on my life, I find that almost every major decision has been guided by God. Even when I first was diagnosed with my illness and I was having trouble doing basic things for myself including driving, He was there looking out for me sending me my dear friend to help out. I was unable to get around even in my small community because I was so sleepy with the medications (Requip, Mirapex, and Sinemet) that I had become my own worst nightmare. In my mind I was checking yes to every box in the Epworth sleepiness scale – even chuckled in disbelief as I fell asleep at stop light and was startled by a loud honk behind me, once when I attempted to go down the street to the shopping center on my own. All I needed to complete the picture of narcoleptic was to fall asleep while eating and flop my head into my plate. Although, I was not far from this state; yet something inside propelled me to apply for a position as PPAC (People Parkinson’s Advisory Committee) for PDF (Parkinson’s Disease Foundation).
I was not sure what I would do if I got accepted since I could not go very far on my own or stay awake for more than an hour at a time for that matter. However, I knew it was in God’s hands. Sometimes in life we have to learn to navigate through life with faith and realize that our strength and our refuge come from above. I have had my share of disappointments, frustrations, and setbacks dealing with Parkinson’s among other illnesses; yet all I have to do is remember how far I have come, how despite the doctor’s predictions, I am still here when I was given 6 months to live 8 years ago.
Thus, this year I am grateful for all the wonderful people I have met along the way, the stories we have shared, the battle wounds we have bound together. Plus, having shared an unexpected journey with you my readers has given me not only tremendous joy and happiness but also afforded me greater insight and compassion to the needs of those who like me are living with this terrible disease. As a neurologist, I have gained a wider perspective in life as well-that no matter how bad we think we have it, there are always worst illnesses to have and maladies to endure.
So in the end, as any doctor would tell you, in order to properly bind a wound a patient must first allow himself to stay(sit) still and allow someone else to be in control to fix the brokenness of a bone, etc.
As the year draws near, I have security and hope knowing that God has been with me in the darkest as well as in the brightest days. He alone can heal and can lift us up when we feel we have no more strength to go.
Perhaps it would be wise to start the holiday season and New Year with the thought that- life is simply too short and precious to live miserable, unhappy, and complaining about something we have no control of…
Remember, it is the natural order of things to change- there will always be losses and gains.
However, because we do have a say on how we choose to live our lives in the midst of adversity and Parkinson’s disease lets try to focus on the gains and not the losses. I choose wisdom that comes only from above ( after despair and sorrow have inundated our hearts) plus a bit of sparkle and bling. What will you choose today?
Never let your inner beauty die out. You are more than your disease.
(my Greek goddess sandals)
As another author (Martha Beck), much more famous than I, would say, “have the courage to open up to life..” especially as we are about to start a New Year.
Happy Holidays from my house to yours!
all rights reserved – Maria De Leon MD