Friday, November 13, 2009


It’s getting harder and harder to watch my 92-year-old father suffer. He’s been in a wheel chair for the past four years, and even before that, his quality of life was being eroded by that insidious enemy, Parkinson’s disease.

He was someone who worked hard all his life. At the age of 13, he was six feet tall and doing the physical work of a man. He was blessed with a good singing voice, wavy brown hair, twinkling eyees, and a sense of leadership that made others trust and respect him. He worked hard, but he always had a roof over his head, plenty to eat, a family that obeyed and loved him, and a strong faith. His life wasn’t perfect, but he had a good life.

His parents and two sisters lived to old age. He never lost a child to illness or accident. He was never rich, but he prospered through hard work and careful living. He led a successful, full life.

And now, he is suffering. Suffering quietly, but suffering.

I didn’t understand the value of this suffering until at the suggestion of another blogger (Roscommon to Imogene), I read a book called Man’s Search for Meaning by Dr. Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist who endured years imprisoned at Auschwitz and Dachau concentration camps. Frankl emerged from the camps with a new vision of life, including the value of suffering. His book examines the idea of transforming tragedy to triumph. “When we are no longer able to change a situation,” he says, “. . . we are challenged to change ourselves.”

Frankl also says, "Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."

It's incredibly hard to watch someone else’s suffering, especially when that someone is your dad. However, this suffering is not necessarily a negative part of life. It’s what a person does with that suffering—what one learns and how one grows from it, and the attitude with which one faces it.

I’m not too old to still learn a lesson from my dad.


Elaine said...

Bless you! and your wonderful family, too!

Anonymous said...

We love grandpa so much and wish we could help him with his struggles on the journey God has chosen for him. He is an inspirational man---we can see the strength of his youth and the deep love he has for his family in his eyes still.
Miss you, R, T & C

Jenny said...

I wrote about suffering a while ago after my little Lucy's diagnosis and I couldn't agree more. Suffering is both beautiful and ugly all at the same time.

Your description of your father reminded me of my own grandfather who passed four years ago. He passed away with his entire family at his bedside after a painful battle with cancer. When it was all over this incredible sense of peace overwhelmed me. I just viewed the end of entire life cycle. A life that was lived with much faith, little money and a whole lot of love. I looked around the room at all his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and thought, "Wow -- none of us would be here if it weren't for this one person."

2to4aday said...

I am so grateful for the comments. My parents' journey in the last few years has been an eye-opening experience for our whole family. We continue to go through every emotion in the book with them--happiness, sadness, fear, frustration, humor . . . you name it, we've felt it. Thanks for letting me vent a little of that emotion in this blog.

middleson said...

I'm glad you enjoyed the book. Thanks for the shout out. :)

Watching suffering is achingly difficult. I think it is good how you view the situation and have chosen to take a positive from it.
Bless you all.

j9 said...

Grandpa and Grandma amaze me. They are a constant reminder of the beauty of a simple and faithful life. I would never want to be born into a family with money to be passed down, what lessons would I learn? I still am so careful at almost 30 years old to never disappoint my grandparents, even knowing their love is unconditional. What's the most amazing part to me is that I KNOW I'm not alone among our large, yet very close family. There is a sense of respect and responsibility to Grandma and Grandpa that wasn't impressed upon us, it was living our lives, all the while watching as two wonderful role models lived theirs. It hurts to see Grandpa suffer and I wonder if I will have the same attitude during the last stages of my life. I hope so.