Monday, April 11, 2011

Parkinson's Disease And My Dear Friend Merv

A new day begins
I've been trying to figure out how to start this post.  Its kind of difficult to know how to approach this introduction...but here goes.  My friend Merv has Parkinson's disease, it wracks his body but I wanted to introduce you to more than a man with Parkinson's; I want to introduce you to a man who is not afraid to be seen as weak and trust God for His future.  So why is it important for me to introduce him to you?  In nine days he will be undergoing deep brain stimulation, and Lord willing, will no longer suffer the pain, tremors and mental haze he has battled these past few years.  Its important because I want to honor his let others out there know they are not alone...and for those who have people they know with Parkinson's, to let them know others know how it feels to walk along side someone with this disease.

I love Merv like a big brother.  He was an elder at a church I attended for nearly ten years. He has helped me through some tough times, helping me to keep my perspective with his incredible sense of humor, candor and faith.  He is my hero...he and his wife Dorrie.  They were always people I could talk to, felt comfortable with.  They have amazing hearts, comfortable, unassuming, loving and with them you know where you stand.

A few years ago Dorrie approached me and asked I would come help her with their garden, it needed renovating.   It would become one of my favorite afternoons, there with Dorrie and her youngest daughters, pulling weeds, chatting and teaching, transplanting flowers, cutting back plants, lifting and restoring the garden in front of their home.  Dorrie and I shopped for plants for the was a seemingly small investment in their lives.  That was a couple of years before Merv started noticing his symptoms.

The shadow of looming storm clouds

After Merv was officially diagnosed Dorrie came up to me, gave me a hug and shared how much they were enjoying their trees and how much my help had meant to them. It blessed me especially in light of what they were dealing with, that God knew what they would face and began making provision for beauty in this little garden outside their front door. I was struck by this thought; how things we do for others without a view into the future will bring joy to them later in deeper measures in a season of need in their lives.

Refreshing sunshine on a winter morning
I was filled up with Dorrie's hug and thank you, with the thought that it was a place of beauty in their season of struggle.  She could have come up to me, pour out what woes they were facing and her worries but no, she shared her gratitude and blessings of that little investment and it was so encouraging to me.  I want to be like Dorrie when I grow up.

Heavy storm clouds approaching
I can still remember when Merv and Dorrie stood in front of us that Sunday at church and shared his Parkinson's diagnosis.  I remember the feeling in my stomach brought on by what little understanding I had of the progression of this disease.  I could not imagine my Merv, my brother, so funny...the man who seemed so strong, now facing a future of suffering in his body.  And what about his family, his wife?  I sat there stunned...all of us were stunned.  At that moment we began a long road of walking along side Merv, Dorrie and their family.  They would need each of us, our prayers, our encouragement and physical help too.  We did not know that we would also need them, that we would be the needy ones at the time; it was Merv with the disease not us.

What storms lie ahead?
We could not see that in the midst of his suffering Merv would produce rich words of encouragement born from the depths of his experience and they would wash over us as we struggled in our situations; his words helping us not to worry.  Worry was always knocking at the door of our minds because we could not know if he would find healing or if the course of this disease would take in his life.  It would rankle us at the news of pain events and loss of mental capacity.

Clouds providing beauty in the morning light
It has not been just Merv, but Dorrie too that has shared from those deep places...both out of their own need and heart felt words filled with treasure only found in the fields of suffering.  Suffering is an amazing and beautiful shows us things we would in no other way be able to see, gives us keys to understanding far beyond the comfort we protect so jealously.  It brings into focus new perspective on life, the value of things, those we have in our lives and our faith.  It grants us greater compassion for others, unlocks our hearts to them and casts the tent pegs of our hearts in a much broader circle.  I understand this may seem counter intuitive and it is.  We try to avoid suffering at all costs.  It is an American way of life after, liberty and freedom from suffering.

That Sunday the two of them stood before us and gave their future into the hands of God and into our hearts for prayer and for physical support when it became time.  And we have prayed and prayed, through long days of struggle and pain, for hope, encouragement and faith that would not fail, for financial support, for miracles with hospital officials so he could finally have this surgery that will take place.  The countdown has begun as of yesterday, April 10th...ten days...10 DAYS!  We are praying for a miracle.

Merv writes a blog about his experience with Parkinson's...Merv's Little Brain  Don't be it.  You will find it inspiring, insightful, honest and pretty funny too.  He is a gift.  I keep reminding him of that as often as I can and feel at times that I cannot say it enough.

Merv, Dorrie and Family...I trust you are reading this and I want to say I love you much, pray for you often, thank God for you all and am blessed to have you in my life.  May God bless you all in spirit and bring healing to you Merv.

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