Posted by: jamesthethickheaded | August 27, 2010

Suffering Ain’t Succotash

With apologies to Yosemite Sam, I have to say that choosing between suffering and succotash is the sort of dilemma that used to give the ol’ mule a tough time. There’s no relish in this thing, and it seems the only thing tougher is trying to understand what we can do to lighten the load. Today, my Aged Relative’s burden leaves him kicking up a storm. We want so much to help with, but he’ll have none of it. Offspring seem the last and least invited… almost by definition.

So what I wonder is how can you tell another who has never been a church goin’ sort of a dude that prayer is the answer? When they don’t seem to even know the question, and leave much unspoken by rule, and so much more  unasked by way of their love, how do we speak about those things we treasure? Each other, the Kingdom… and those things we fear?

Treading beyond our Berlin Walls of personally unsanctified space as if they enclosed some sort of Unholy of Unholies not be soiled with any of the actual realities we fear to face. Living in a world where all is easy… where nothing is necessary, and each of us stands on our own… afraid to burden another. It’s almost as if by doing so somehow we think we can keep the thing at bay, and the unwelcome adventure need not be taken.

No. This is not that time. That was yesterday. That was someone else. This is you, me.. all of us. Now. We are going, and none of us will come back. We will all be changed. One more than the others… but make no mistake we are all about to be changed. We are all about to face the darkness. But how many of us will look for the light… the light of Christ and be unafraid to name it for what it is?

The descent into Parkinson’s has already been traveled for sometime. Denial offered no comfort, no shelter, and only tested those who loved him. The demand to tell no one accomplished nothing but undermined their trust. Treatment has equally provided less than promised. That there would be no respite seems unexpected. And so as the journey begins in earnest, there remains one course  both  overdue and unbidden: the one thing needful.

It seems so obvious. Everyone sees it but the doctor who insists all is “Fine, you’re looking great! See ya’! Bye! Don’t call me if you need something. N-E-X-T!” And yet descent in to terminal illness – whether as a witness or as a traveler – seems left unnecessarily to become a journey to witness an execution rather than the glory it might otherwise be. Easy to say, huh? Martyrdom still has blood, and wounds that bleed don’t usually come without pain. I’m not unmindful the same lies here and there and in our own course in our time. But  it was theirs and now his, and not ours and mine. Thank you, but it’s not helping.

So must old age really wear a hood? Must witnesses really be this cold? Must we leave things so impersonal and anonymous? Or can we befriend, or at least stand astride and encourage the blow be swift if it can’t be kind? If we lose our bodies and our minds, when do we lose our hearts?

My partner, my father, and my mentor …and even in a few way at least… my friend… has taken a lick. And it’s that sort from which you don’t get back up again. Our prayer for the Holy Spirit to help us and heal us… well, this is that day when that healing and that help will come in another way… the only way in which it may come… if only he would ask… if only I can find a way to suggest. But there’s the rub.

Yet I know this guy. There’s that bit about horses and water. It’s his choice, and his call I know, is that I let him make it. So if  what he needs now seems beyond his capability to know how to ask… I’m puzzled to know what to do. Patience. Comfort. Sufferance. Companionship. Maybe this is all we have to offer anyway.

I suspect we still have a long road to go; and that his long day’s journey into night is not a solo voyage.  We may well all rest in peace before he “rests in Thee”. Let be if it must, but if it be pleasing, let it be otherwise.


  1. It is very hard to help those who are both stubbornly independent and in denial. I think it is also very hard to lovingly share our faith with our parents who already have a “talk to the hand” attitude about such things. Pray, my friend, because that is where you can make a difference.

    I sit in the room of the dying quite often . I pray and I sing quietly to them songs they don’t realize are from the Ancient church. I hope you can also find a way to comfort your parent during this difficult time.

    Prayers for you.

  2. Deb: Thanks!

    Well… my kids have the “talk to the hand” down more than my folks. Maybe if I learn sign language, at least I can talk TO the hand WITH a hand… and at least it’d be some sort of Pas de Deux ballett. It’s a thought.

    Forgot about your hospice duties. Can’t tell where we are in the scheme of things. Like a steel trap over there. Early innings, late innings? Dunno. The hand doesn’t talk back much these days.

    So prayer is about it. And a long list keeps getting longer.

  3. You can’t really talk to the hand, you just have to be there and hold it and pray. Sometimes peace is contagious if there is even a glimmer of an acknowledgment of the need for it. Parkinson’s is a brutal and humiliating disease. My father in law spent his last years with us with a rare form of it. He was a proud and arrogant man who learned humility and dependency and prayer the hard way, but he learned it. Of course we learned a few lessons along the way too. “Love never fails….”

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