When my parents returned from Texas in the fall of 2001 it seemed as a dark cloud moved in over my dad Jim’s health. He was diagnosed that fall, first with the shingles and then, eight weeks later, the shingles advanced to a disease known as Post Herpetic Neuralgia. Post Herpetic Neuralgia (PHN) is the third stage of the chicken pox virus. PHN virus destroys nerve endings, exposing the patient to very painful jabs. Doctors revealed to Jim that he could have this pain for the rest of his life, or as little as 10 years. With a diagnosis like that, most people would give up. He has been nine years now with PHN.
My parents have been working with various doctors and medications to help control the painful symptoms. Dad had a morphine pump installed in his stomach, to direct medications to his spine. Seven years ago the dosage of morphine has been so high for Dad at times it could slow down an elephant. Unfortunately, some days the pain overrides the medications and won’t allow Dad to leave the house, or his chair. A gentle breeze, or a pat on the back could send him for hours of agony, He has spent years laboring with this pain. He has not experienced a pain free day for nine years.
Jim has been hospitalized with pneumonia more than 7 times in a one year span, over 20 times in a 4 year span. My Dad knows his body is fragile. He knows his existence and purpose in life is not just to just suffer and count hospital visits. On one of Dad’s frequent ambulance rides he expressed to paramedics his knowledge of the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Dad has come home from the hospital a time or two looking like he was in a boxing match, weak, worn out, and exhausted. But he still musters the strength to tie up his spiritual gloves of prayer and worship, ready to fight. These hospital visits and ambulance rides have been grounds of invitation, an opportunity for Dad to share his faith, a mini witness tour you could say.
My parents are a fantastic prayer team; they prefer to take daily spiritual medications and vitamins in the form of dedication to the Rosary. They focus on the Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful, and Glorious mysteries of the life of Jesus Christ and His Mother and ours. Daily they include intentions not only for themselves, but offer up supportive prayers for over 100 individuals, and the list keeps growing.
They are not looking for anyone’s approval for their prayer life. A bird does not seek approval when it sings; it just does what is natural, singing praise to its creator. Jim and Aloha will tell you that praying with the Rosary, daily Bible readings and frequently receiving the sacrament of the Eucharist, comes very naturally to them. It dissolves fear and anxiety, eases pain, and activates countless blessings. No other medications can compare to the healing effects of prayer and Communion. They seize every opportunity to connect with something greater than their body/pain/mind/or even their egos.
When people have expressed pity and compassion for Dad he responds in a most encouraging manner. “This pain has a purpose. I may not be able to do a lot, but I can still Pray for those who suffer more than I do. This will pass. I am grateful that my pain has drawn me closer to Jesus in prayer.” My Dad’s journey reminds me of St Francis of Assisi who was known be a supporter and healer of lepers. Yet he himself was burdened with suffering. St Francis said “I want everyone to know that it is God who does the healing.” St Francis deliberately held on to his infirmities to teach others God was working, not him. St Francis also taught it is in giving that we receive. One of the best gifts a person can receive, are positive prayer intentions of good will.
I love the fact that my Mom decides every day to serve my Dad, through his pain, and that they both thrive in the face of it. Jim and Aloha take great comfort in knowing and sharing with everyone that they have the perfect “Senior Advisor” Jesus Christ” along with the examples of Mary the angels and saints, they are not at all alone with their suffering. “God has never abandoned us. He has stuck with us every moment, giving us so many tools to connect with him. We remain faithful to the light that is Christ.” Says Jim and Aloha. “The “SON” is shining behind the clouds of pain that moved in years ago, we have faith, the clouds will not stay long.
Copyright 2010 Marjory Erdman