Parkinson's Disease -
Challenges and Encouragement
Monday, December 13, 2010
For Better or Worse or Parkinson's Disease
The bride was radiant. The groom stood tall and strong, beaming as he locked eyes with his wife-to-be as she effortlessly floated down the aisle to Pachelbel's Canon. The wedding was flawless. Its music, the minister's message and the marriage vows brought tears to many eyes as a new family was born. Two families came together and simultaneously gave birth to a third. Success of this melding of families, cultures and personalities can only be judged when future dreams have become history, when promises prove to be a legacy. Given the journey together was just beginning, it occurred to me that the potential dangers and discouragement, threats and tragedies that lay ahead are rarely mentioned...except the foreshadowing in one phrase.
In the traditional marriage vows two young people bravely commit to faithfulness in an unknown future. The brilliance of the cameras flashing and the fragrance of the flowers seem to leave statistics suspended in a state of disbelief. My eyes tear up as I hear the words, "for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health". Squeezing the hand of my bride of more than 36 years I remember speaking and hearing those words. As with most newlyweds, we were naive. We thought only of the 'better, richer, healthy' future that we would share. At the time we could not imagine the 'worse, poverty or sickness'. But in their own way, each of them came.
Little did we know that in the "worse" times, when children seemed an unexplained, unanswered prayer, we were being prepared to experience the 'better' miracle of three chosen children, perfect for our family. How were we to guess that in the cash-strapped years of educational 'poverty' we would receive the 'riches' of sharing friendship and laughter. And lastly, we could not have foreseen that sickness would invade our early empty-nester years in the form of Parkinson's disease, well before illness would normally strike. But even so, there was an emotional health, a better perspective on life, a balance that has followed.
Truth be told, I always thought it would be me taking care of my wife in our old age. I exercised, competed in short course triathlons and lived a pretty healthy life. Renae tried working out in 1969 and didn't like it. Despite staying thin, she has not tried it since (although she does come along to the gym some mornings for my encouragement). But I was the one who got dealt the PD card. I cannot express my love and appreciation for a faithful spouse to walk this path with me.
I know that most modern couples seem to skip the idea of saying the arcane wedding vows, or even marriage itself, in favour of more glowing, free-flowing, dreamy language that does not mention nasty realities. I know that the statistics are against a marriage lasting "til death do us part". But there is not a day that goes by when I do not rest a moment on the words of that vow exchanged so many years ago now. And I marvel at the blessing that has come through the 'worse...poorer...sickness' times spent together. Marriage is stronger and life is better as a result.
At every wedding I attend I pray a prayer. It is not a prayer of fear that the couple will be spared all difficult times, but a prayer of faith that when challenges come, as surely they will, the couple will have learned to cling to the value of the vows.
Diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease in 2006, I was 53. I currently serve as the President of Trinity Western University, of which I am an alumnus. I remain engaged as a lawyer who practices as general counsel to a wide variety of clients, primarily in the Vancouver region of British Columbia, Canada.
Married for 40+ years (to the same loving and long-suffering woman), with 3 grown children, and one grandson. Besides my wife and family, my passion is living the adventure called life as a God-given gift, which includes motorcycle riding, scuba-diving, blogging, Scrabble and looking for the treasure hidden in each day.