The FISHERS Magazine (Issue 231)
The Faded Rose Shall Bloom Again
Many of us have heard of driverless cars and soon we could have pilotless aeroplanes. Today’s modern jetliners already have computers that could fly and land the aeroplane automatically; they require little or no human intervention. But, no matter how advanced these machines are, they are still imperfect as imperfect men. Things can go wrong, and they will go wrong.
There was a time when I felt as though I was flying on one of these aeroplanes that had gone wrong. I could not slow the engines down to land; its thrust levers were jammed. I could not change the aeroplane’s heading; its flight controls were not responding, and the fuel gauges showed that the aeroplane was running out of fuel. I knew too well what would happen when the fuel tanks became empty. And that was how I felt when I was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease a little more than three years ago. I was placed in an impending disaster over which I had absolutely no control.
Most of us have our picture as the icon for our social media accounts. For a time, I changed my icon from my photo to that of a faded rose. A rose is normally seen as an object of beauty; its essence is used for fragrances, and it brings joy to both the giver and receiver for that special occasion. But a faded rose is worse than useless. It will hurt those who come in contact with it because of its sharp thorns. I was that faded rose.
Parkinson's disease is a disorder of the nervous system. It develops because of the impairment or death of certain nerve cells in the brain which affect motor and non-motor skills, causing the person to slow down or stop altogether. The symptoms are many and include insomnia, loss of memory, inability to multi-task, slowness in reaction, poor judgement of space and distance, trouble with comprehension, disorientation, rigidity or loss of control in the limbs, weakened throat muscles, difficulty in speech. The list could go on.
I have two good friends who were diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at the same time as me. One, who worked with me in the airline, is now confined to his wheelchair; he can hardly speak properly. The other has hand tremors and difficulty in walking; she lost her balance a few times and fell. There was an occasion when she stopped in the middle of a pedestrian crossing as her legs were suddenly unable to move.
I attend the Parkinson’s Support Group meetings conducted by the Singapore General Hospital. There I see patients at various stages of the disease. Some have zombie-like facial expressions, staring blankly at you. Others have bent over postures, shuffling as they walk with an unsteady gait. Many of them have trembling hands. There are those who are unable to speak or articulate properly. A few are slumped over in their wheelchairs with saliva drooling from the corner of their mouths. It was a picture of hopelessness and despair. My future was played out in front of me. That is how I would eventually become, maybe worse. Despite the disease having been around for many years, there is no known cure for Parkinson’s disease.
Not being able to do what I could easily do in the past could be frustrating. To know the bleak future, and having no control over it, could be very depressing. “God is sovereign. He is in control. He doesn’t make mistakes”. This promise is so easy to say; so easy to teach our Sunday School students. But when I have to face my moments of trial, it takes some soul searching, and my faith is tested. I do not have the faith of Job to utter those profound words: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). I can only trust in God with my simple faith. Surely this God who has been so good to me all these years will not leave me nor forsake me now.
In Isaiah 41:10, God gives me this reassuring promise: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” If God is with me, what more could I ask? If God is with me, what more do I need? Thank God for His Word. Where trials abound, grace abounds even more.
When we were young, we seem to think that we would live forever. When we reach the stage when people start giving up their seats on the bus for us, life takes on a totally different perspective. With my days numbered, there is an urgency to accomplish the many things I have always wanted to do. Besides making my will, delegating my Lasting Power of Attorney and signing my Advance Medical Directive, I want to read the books I have accumulated over the years but had no time to read; to enjoy my music; to read my poetry; to explore some beautiful caves when I am still able to. There are also other things I want to do that really matter. I want to spend more time alone with God; more time with my family; more time with my close friends.
Life takes on a whole new direction and meaning. I do not overthink my disease anymore. When new symptoms come, I will treat them as another inconvenience; something to work around, not something to fear. I draw strength not from my own effort but from the Word of God.
I started by saying that I felt like flying on a pilotless aeroplane that has gone wrong. I was mistaken. I was on an aeroplane with God in control. God knows the way that I should go. God knows how I should get there. God knows when I should get there. And the aeroplane will never run out of fuel! It would be foolish of me to try and suggest a change of course or destination. I should not tell God what to do. He knows what is best for me. All I need to do is to sit back, fasten myself on the Word of God, and enjoy the flight.
Yes, in all things, give thanks. “All things” means “all things” with no exceptions. No terms and conditions attached; it is the good, the bad and the ugly, including Parkinson’s disease.
To God be the glory.