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.
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?
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