July 20, 2015: When Life Piles On

~by Louis Templeman

When life piles on

. . . look in thy heart and write. ~Phillip Sidney

I fear becoming feeble. Life appears to be piling on her miseries and the limitations that come with aging; I assumed it would happen. However, I am surprised it is happening to me so early. I have friends my age who are still carrying ladders and renovating houses. I have passed a threshold, a mile marker in life that indicates those days are behind me. I can still enjoy short projects around the house but working all day is out of the question.

This fresh encounter with my mortality is part of the experience that come the Parkinson’s diagnosis. Some call these border experiences. In my pilgrimage of life I am at the point where I can see the border between life and death, the undiscovered country. And now, the chronic cough I have had for five years is currently worse than ever. I coughed repeatedly through a recent supper date with an important and dear friend. I also coughed, sometimes violently, through the last session I had with my therapist. My cough seems to be triggered by eating, talking and sometimes just breathing. There is a tickle in my throat that is easily triggered. It is so annoying I am so tired of it. I have to admit that it is really depressing me.

The cough has been fortified with an episode of bronchitis and sinus infection. I don’t think I’ve ever had one so bad. I just finished my regimen of anti-biotic and steroid meds. This has helped the pain in my head and the sinus issue and ratcheted down my cough level to its normal chronic state. So now I only feel kind’a bad instead of real bad.

What I am dealing with is the way of all flesh – the human condition. It is actually a precious time in life, not always enjoyable but nevertheless, precious. Suffering, in whatever form, in some way speaks of the cross. Suffering points us to the cross. It is a vital mystery that is essential to our Christian faith. In one of Bob Dylan’s newer songs, “Not Dark Yet”, he speaks of this: “Behind every beautiful thing there is always some kind of pain.”

There were two thieves on crosses next to Jesus’ cross. Their suffering was tangentially different from Christ’s suffering, nevertheless pain is pain. One of the thieves felt his suffering was just. The suffering of the thieves pointed each to the cross; one in petition, one in cursing.

Jesus’ cross said to each of them, “You are not alone. I am suffering with you . Your trials are my trials. In a little while it will be over. I know how and when to rescue you and comfort you.”

Save me, O God

For the waters have risen to my neck.

I have sunk into the mud of the deep

And there is no foothold.

I have entered the waters of the deep

And the waves overwhelm me.

I am wearied with all my crying,

My throat is parched.

~Psalm 69~

Sometimes faith seems to fall short. Sometimes God’s promises seem to mock my situation. This confusion is itself part of the package. Jesus felt forsaken on his cross. I, however, am not forsaken. I am not alone. I will trust in the Lord, even if only in the slimmest of margins.

I do not enjoy writing this. As an exercise it helps me to process the experience of illness but it is no fun. It is what I do to practice my faith. I look to my heart and if all I find is darkness and doubt I write honestly. I am sure that sometimes darkness and doubt become the wings of prayer.

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Louis writes from Jacksonville, Florida where he lives with his old friend and wonderful bride, Joy. They transformed their friendship into the sacrament of marriage on August 30, 2012. They share their home with two self-absorbed, playful, twin cats (Flo and Jet) and one very allusive and arrogant cat named D. Louis has recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and is fighting the good fight. Much of what he writes these days he is sharing his journey with us. Please keep Louis and his wife Joy in your prayers.

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