10/26/15 Perhaps my choice of seating at church this Sunday is a precursor to my future physical abilities. The second row on the left front is informally reserved for a group of senior ladies, some of which have health issues. That’s where I sat, right there in the second pew with these longtime matrons of the church. At first I did not notice my location included me with the group. But it did. I tried to stand taller, to appear to not belong as time and illness has decreased their stature. I tried to look strong and indepentdent as I noticed how they helped each other with sweaters and coats, reaching for hymnals and getting a Kleenex from a purse on the floor. These ladies also assist each other in getting to and into the church. These women have no men left in their lives to assist them I guess. And where is my man? He is up on the alter assisting the priest. So I am seated right where I belong. With the women who have been lifelong friends and care for each other.
Today the scripture teaches us about Jesus healing yet another blind man. But in this reading, and the only time in the Gospels, we learn his name. Of all the people Jesus comes in contact with, why do we get to learn this blind man’s name. It is because Jesus calls to him. Bartimeus.
I used to think that it was pure luck when I was in the right place at the right time for something good to happen to me. So much good happened in my life. I was a self proclaimed “Golden Girl”. Over a short period of time the plans I had for my future changed dramatically. I know now what I should have then. It’s all a part of the Master’s plan. Bartimeus was there because it was in the plan for him to answer when Jesus called. The bonus for him was he could now see.
The scripture passage told us he stood up and flung away his cloak
The cloak is as significant to this story as learning his name is Bartimeus. He could hide in that cloak, covering himself, protected from the world. And the world was protected from seeing him.
It’s hard to look at a person with a disability. It takes love, kindness, compassion, understanding. Some of these traits are inborn, some learned and sometimes never learned. I have a hard time even looking at my own body. Media represents the human body as perfect, without deformity or blemish. It’s just not that way for me. When my skin crawls and I want nothing more than to crawl out of it, I want to hide. When my hand or leg tremors uncontrollably I want to hide. Once upon a time I was a lean and muscular athlete. I could run very fast. Now I am chubby and flabby and slow. I want to hide. Dyskinesia are setting in and my body wiggles and twists. I want to hide.
It wasn’t that hard to sit with the ladies of the church after all. Although their souls exist in worn out bodies, most people can look at them. They have thrown off their cloaks. They do not hide. There have been times when individuals have sat in front or in row two on the left and it hasn’t been easy to look at them. As I sat in the second row I decided it was time to throw off my cloak.
I have Parkinson’s Disease. I cannot hide it anymore. I don’t want to. Jesus called me out of the crowd. My crowd included successful beautiful hardworking peoplle. Jesus granted me the courage to have this disease. That’s a weird thought, being granted courage to have a disease. After my diagnosis I did not get angry for awhile. When God the Father told me to do something good with it I didn’t rebel. My anger let loose a few years later, on the Camino de Santiago. It was 15 days into the walk when my soul reached this desolate spot. I stood out on the Meseta on the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain in over 100 degree heat and screamed at God, letting loose my anger until it took me to my knees. He listened. God listened. He said to me “Carol look where you are. Look what you are doing”. I stopped my wailing. i took a look around. Blue sky. Miles and miles of wide open vistas. I realized that while most of my friends may be home right now … on summer break …lounging in their air conditioned house… reading novels and eating Bon Bons I was walking 500 miles across Spain. I saw in myself a new strength and a new courage. I could do this thing called El Camino. And I knew then that I would be ok with this disease Do something good with this. God the father said.
So I did. And I do.
I have thrown off the cloak. Now, you can see me. I am visible to you in my strength and in my physical challenges.
In a way, they are the same thing.