As Disability, MS, and other similar Awareness Months draw to a close, I thought this would be an appropriate time to share a in a different way. Describing how MS really affects me can prove difficult, outside of a list of concrete symptoms. So how does one communicate this? How about poetry?
National Poetry Month begins on Monday, so it’s time for poeming and pondering.
“Scars” by Angela Knight
a Misbehaving System is what I call it.
You can call it what you wish.
Cells that should kill germs harm others instead, and what do they leave behind?
What do they take away?
Energy. Control. Ability. Freedom.
“It’s all in your head,” you say.
And I agree.
With scars in my head,
I sometimes wonder what’s left.
But then I hear an inner voice, one of assurance:
“Scars are not alone. When you look, you’ll find unexpected gifts:
The gift of Empathy to offer an ear to hear of invisible pain, filled with frustration and hard to see with the outer eye.
The gift of Peace beyond understanding, easier to feel when busy-ness is forced aside and stillness found.
The gift of Love you’ll feel as dear ones see through and beyond your scars, and the truest love, shown through one whose scars bring new life.”
More than Scars.
That’s what I call it.
You can call it what you wish.
I realized this evening, after seeing a note from my older brother, that this is indeed September 19. “Yes,” you say, “you can read the calendar. And your smartphone… and this matters because…?”
Nineteen years ago today marked a loss from which I’ve still not fully snapped back. But as I contemplate this evening, I think that’s okay. I think Rich would have liked knowing that his steps ruffled things up a bit.
I’ve written of Rich Mullins’ impact on my life several other years also, and I’ll do it here again. His own life was filled with “invisible issues,” some of which he shared in ways only he could, and many of which he kept hidden.
One song of his, “Elijah,” was particularly poignant, with poetic imagery that touched my heart as far back as my high school years. Take a look at my 2012 reflections on Rich’s special forward to my high school photographic essay. (Step back in time for a look at school projects completed with paper, pen, crayola markers, scissors, and scads of rubber cement. Color printers? Not in 1988.)
I continue to hear Rich’s music in my head at various times, but I find it happening most when T.R. and I are reading scripture together. So much of the imagery, the stories can be tied to scripture. As we’re trodding through Revelation, with its fantastical and frightening imagery (though I know a triumphant end is coming before the book is complete), I find myself offering the same prayer as Rich in his song, Be with You: “…when the sky is crossed with the tears of a thousand falling stars as they crash into the sea, can I be with You? Can I be with You?”.
Yes, it’s been nineteen years. And I thank Rich and the legacy he has left for continued little lessons I learn, from reflecting on teenage times to hearing the scriptures continue to sing today. May his songs live on.
In “Day 27” of my thankful journey posts, I promised I would continue with “Day 28” on August 9. The past week and a half held many blessings, but one calendar addition came a little unexpectedly. How so? Allow me to explain.
Today, August 9, my uncle’s funeral is taking place as I finish typing this post. Uncle Otto passed away at the age of eighty, and his final few years held the extra challenge of Alzheimer’s disease. For a strong farmer/businessman, a leader in his church and family, understanding and coming to terms with this hard-to-understand I malady weighed hard on Uncle Otto, Aunt Donna, his children and grandchildren. I know all of the family is thankful that they had the opportunity, while his mind was still here, to share final words with him. Then over recent months, we were all thankful for a loving “memory care center” that offered needed support.
But Uncle Otto’s life was beautiful and rich, not defined by his later struggle. So what to be thankful for on this day? I was unable to travel to the funeral, but I have no doubt that much will be shared about family, as children, grandchildren and cousins banter with a smile.
Five Thankful Thoughts in honor of Uncle Otto:
- Family roots – My mother’s only brother (with four girls in the family), Uncle Otto followed my grandfather’s farming footsteps. The farm carries on with my cousins Tim and Scott, then their extended families. In a world where family roots sometimes struggle to take hold, Uncle Otto’s legacy will carry on.
- Family man – Five children in the Otto and Donna Wuethrich family were neat cousins to grow up with, though I was much younger. I never really got to know the oldest cousin, Jerry, as I was only ten years old when he died in a car accident. The photo here is one Scott posted on Facebook – isn’t it a lovely image of Uncle Otto and two of his happy kiddoes?
- Man of Faith – Otto Wuethrich held strong to his faith, and I know he was a part of the leadership at the Apostolic Christian Church in Francesville, where my mother attended when growing up. Though the more formal, traditional church may seem unusual, the heart of this church is pure on a level often not seen in less formal houses of worship. After Grandpa Wuethrich passed away when I was in elementary school, I recall Uncle Otto leading a prayer at a large family gathering. And his voice sounded exactly like Grandpa had sounded, with as sure of a prayer.
- Outdoorsman – Uncle Otto loved to fish – and he even stocked fish in the pond behind their home. And young relatives who love to fish were able to do so! I appreciated him sharing this bit of his life with us.
- Aunt Donna – his high school sweetheart! I’m thankful that he brought into the Wuethrich family a gem of a sister-in-law for my mother. Aunt Donna, later in life, developed a sweet yet sardonic humorous routine, a la Erma Bombeck, and we’re so blessed that she is a “Wonderful Wuethrich Woman.” The long goodbye of Alzheimer’s was especially hard for Aunt Donna, who also faces Parkinson’s, but she stood by Uncle Otto even when it was tough. We love you, Aunt Donna!
On this lovely Sunday, our family’s time of worship had us looking at prayer – an amazing gift that I continue to aim to understand. So today’s thankful things will start with prayer!
Today’s 5 Thankful things:
- God who answers prayer – Even when the answers aren’t quite what we thought we needed.
- God who knows – …even when we don’t. This photo of the robin was taken in front of our house four years ago, and it’s in honor of the similar robin we affectionately named “Dumb Bird.” Why? I’ll give the story next.
- Because too often, I’m the “dumb bird. This particular robin decided that he needed to build a nest over our front door, on the little ledge there. At only an inch or so deep, we knew a nest there wouldn’t survive, so we continually removed the pile of nest-building material he’d pile there. Each time we’d remove them, he’d pile them again. He didn’t see that we had removed those for a reason. Dumb Bird’s story was a parable God offered me – when I desire to build a nest that wouldn’t work, I know God has a tree somewhere that would suit me better than the ledge I deem as perfect.
- Family helps answer many of our prayers and needs – I continue to be amazed at how God continues to answer prayers and meet needs that I didn’t even know I had.
- Laughter – I love how happy laughter of family and friends can help lighten the heart and mood, giving God a chance to turn my ear to Him!
Happy Independence Day to my fellow Americans! The Fourth of July reminds me of so many things I have to be thankful for. Here are a few:
- I love our country! – Though quite imperfect, America is my home country, and there are so many wonderful things that come together to make our very diverse nation a beautiful place.
- Picturesque spots – From sea to shining sea, as the lyrics proclaim, America truly is beautiful.
- We’re young, but we do have history – As my daughters spent the past school year immersed in the depths of our history during advanced placement US History (APUSH), I, the parent, was reminded of chapters of our history that may not all make me proud, but do show how far we’ve come.
- Family roots – My grandmother (Dad’s mom, Helen Trimble) once told me that our family does date back to the colonial times. My great-great-great…… aunt was Dolly Madison’s sister, or something of that sort. (Dolly Madison was the wife of James Madison, not just the brand name of a snack cake advertised with the Peanuts cartoon characters.)
- Freedom! – Ability to worship God unimpeded by governmental rules and requirements is a beautiful thing.
p.s. The fourth of July is also the special day of a friend who lives “across the pond.” Happy Birthday, Ruthie!