The night before I had attempted to make notes, but this proved problematic. I had no printer, therefore making notes on my computer would not be of much assistance (unless I carried it up to the platform only to spend far too long trying to hit the right keys and inevitably risk losing my place, and my composure). Having no alternative, I resorted to pencil and paper, painstakingly printing my speaking notes in very short form on one page. This was not a narrative, but rather point form notes to remind me of the key issues I wanted to cover. But just the thought of standing in front of a large audience of strangers increased the amperage on my tremor, making my notes look more like wobbly and indecipherable hieroglyphics than clear printing that would have to be referred to at a glance. And, as is often the case with me, additional thoughts came to mind, which were added to the already scribble-covered page.
Although I carried the paper with my notes in my badly shaking hands, I did not read it or refer to it much. Rather, I spoke directly from the heart, more than from memory. I wanted to be sincere, honest and transparent. For the most part, I just told my story, using the analogy of Parkinson's disease as a different language (in the context of Carson's sermon). It went something like this:
"On January 19, 2006, I was given a new language to speak. It was based upon the fact that on that day I had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. It was a language that came from having something chronically, incurably, degeneratively and debilitatingly wrong with the way my brain produced dopamine, a disease that would ultimately rob me of much of my body functioning. It was a language resulting from the frustration and pain, embarrassment and even humiliation I would experience. But I determined then that, regardless of the source of this language and its negative vocabulary, it could be transformed and used to encourage, bring perspective, enable understanding and give hope each day. "
As I shared with a woman after the service was over, "Pain is too important to waste". For it is through our pain, our difficulties, our failures and our weaknesses that we can understand the language of others. That is not to encourage self-pity, judge others or deprive others of their dignity. Rather, with gentleness and humility, we can share the burden of living that sometimes must be borne; just as we can celebrate the conquering of challenges. We each have a calling, a contribution to make, and cause to serve. We must handle adversity well, share our struggles with it, learn its language, and use it to hear, understand and encourage everyone you can as a result of it.
Of course, there were many ways in which I could have improved my presentation, including making sure my notes were typewritten in large font that I could read without having to hold them in my shaky hands. But hearing the responses from others after was very affirming.
While I am no preacher, there is a story I need to tell, and a message I need to share (even if preached from the pulpit): Parkinson's disease, although it may be powerful, will only beat us if we let it. There is hope, not just in a cure, or for better medicines, but for every day. We can choose to encourage others to become and remain Positively Parkinson's.