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My Enemy Parkinson’s: Dad’s Last Words To Me

The last day of his life, my father sat in the passenger seat of his van and struggled to control the muscles of his mouth. I listened carefully for words I’d recognize. He told me he was proud of me.

I will forever cherish that last message, no matter how garbled it came out.

Dad died of a heart attack a couple of hours later, but it was Parkinson’s disease that robbed him of the ability to fluidly communicate. It effected his gait and caused his hands to tremble but it was losing his ability to get a word out that really hurt him.


Dad and me with our dog in happier times, before Parkinson’s disease.

Today is World Parkinson’s Day, and April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month. Parkinson’s is a progressive condition of the nervous system.

The first sign of Dad’s problem was sluggish legs and a tremor in his right hand. Drinking from a glass became an impossibility. The liquid sloshed out. He used straws, and then a baby cup.

Parkinson’s is one of my enemies. It twisted the last few years of my dad’s life. He suffered. And yet, he managed to get to church the morning of his death. He didn’t allow illness to defeat him.

After Dad died on July 9, 2006, I saw a man at a bowling alley. His relatives had brought him. He had Parkinson’s. He sat in a wheelchair with a rope tied to either chair arm. He couldn’t sit upright. The rope kept him from falling out.

I realized then that God had been merciful. My Dad didn’t get that bad. I wanted my daddy with me, but I didn’t want him to suffer like that.

I consider that moment at the bowling alley a turning point in my grief. It was a demonstration of a familiar passage in the Old Testament.

“The righteous perish and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death.” ~ Isa. 57: 1-2

As I cleaned out my parents’ home, I found things that reminded me of his struggle with Parkinson’s. Handbooks from a Parkinson’s conference. Utensils we’d purchased at a medical supply store. They were bent, minimizing the dexterity needed to guide food to the mouth.

And his sippy cups.

I imagine a day when a cure for Parkinson’s will be announced. I will dance that day. I will go to my daddy’s grave and tell him: They’ve beaten Parkinson’s, Dad. They’ve found a cure. Somebody’s daddy has been saved today.

Was there a moment when your grief changed because of new information or perspective?


Copyright © 2017 by Toni Lepeska. All rights reserved.

8 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jane #

    My mother died of aspiration pneumonia in August of 2012 and had Parkinsons for years. After taking care of my Dad through his Alzheimers, she began to fall on occasion and lost her sense of smell. Later she had trouble walking and sitting upright at times. Sometimes she had nightmares and trouble telling the nightmares from real life. Fortunately at the time of her admission into the Hospice House she was mentally aware and made the decision herself, saving me from having to do it. The doctor said she had to have a permanent feeding tube as she could no longer swallow and food was going down the wrong way, thus the pneumonia. She only lasted 2 days and I think may have willed herself to go on to Heaven.


    April 11, 2017
    • Jane, I’m so sorry. A double whammy of Alzheimers and Parkinson’s. I’m glad you didn’t have to make that decision. Your mother sounds like a strong person. In heaven, she is free of suffering. Thank you for sharing your story. We gotta see the specter of Parkinson’s done in. Bless you.


      April 11, 2017
  2. Sheryl M. Baker #

    Thanks Toni for sharing. This post really touched me as my dad has a mild form of Parkinson’s. He has not progressed to the extent of your dad or the man in the wheel chair. I pray that it will be many more years yet, if ever, before that happens. Your post has shown me I have much to be thankful for. More than I ever knew. Thanks for your revealing words and the tender way you share them.


    April 17, 2017
    • Hi, Sheryl. I recall now that you’d said that about your dad. It progresses at different speeds in different people. Dad was on med but it didn’t eliminate symptoms. I pray for advances that will help those like your dad live fully-mobile lives. Thanks for being a faithful reader and commenter!

      Liked by 1 person

      April 17, 2017
  3. Polly #


    While reading this, it took me back to how greatly my parents suffered with their health and how grief stricken they felt about the world at large. I felt grateful for the fact that their suffering has ended and they are eternally freed from all pain. It doesn’t ease my own pain of losing them and missing them so, but it gives me something to ponder and furthermore to be grateful amidst the grief.
    Thank you so much for sharing your heart! It means so much to me and so many others who are grieving! 💕🙏🏼


    April 11, 2018
    • Polly, I hurt for you because I too grieved that my folks suffered, even tho they were later freed. We live in a fallen world, and for reasons we canot yet know, Christians suffer while in this world too. Perhaps it has function to prepare us, release us from the world and then wow heaven were ready for. Bless you. I’m so glad we can both share our experiences.


      April 11, 2018
    • Thanks for all the shares you do from my site and for your support, Sue.


      April 11, 2018

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