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.