Feet

by David Carlson

I took apart a framed painting awhile back. My brother collects art and saw this painting hanging in our home. He began to get me excited or more correctly I got myself worked up over the possibility it might be of great value. When I exposed the back of the canvas, I found it to be covered with handwriting. Surely even if the painting wasn’t worth anything, as my hopes to stumble unto a fortune leapt forward once again, this had to be the writing of Abraham Lincoln or someone nearly as recognizable. Upon closer examination I found that the writing was anonymous consisting of riddles most of which had a biblical theme. The first one read:

“What did Adam plant first in the Garden of Eden?”

Answer: “His feet.”

Once I got past the idea that God did not feel I could handle unlimited wealth, and past the silliness of the riddle. I thought about my feet and where they had been. A verse from an old Sunday school song came to mind:

Oh be careful little Feet where you go,
For the father up above is looking down with love,
So be careful little feet where you go.

Where have my feet been? I’ve tried to tread lightly through this life, trying not to disturb others, thinking my way was God’s. Looking back, I was most likely trying to go unnoticed by God. Like the fellow who wrote the riddles, my life was hidden away for years on the back of a painting, anonymous, sealed up in a frame and its backing, well preserved but not really touching anyone. God chose not to allow this. He began pealing back the layers that were engulfing me by placing me in one extraordinary situation after another. One of the most difficult for me to bear and understand was being stricken with Parkinson’s disease at age 39. As the disease progressed through my 40s and into my 50s, I learned much about life and God through the rocky paths I had to travel, now only figuratively because I could barely make it to the mailbox on my cramped up feet. I thought: what good is all I’ve gained if I won’t be able to share it?

Even if I could go further with assistance, my senses would not allow it. Along with the physical limitations, I lost much of my mental ability to process information. It was as if my brain was cramped up along with my muscles. It was all I could do to observe life from a distance, rather than participate. It was as if I were in a perpetual fog. Sometimes it would lift a little, but there was always this veil keeping me from experiencing life and those around me and their experiencing me. The reality that this illness was going to be the cause of my demise was slowly surrounding me. I naively thought that at least it would not be a painful passing, but then I was stricken with more and more severe muscle cramps and spasms. As time passed and medications began to fail, the pain grew in duration and intensity to a level where the end seemed imminent. A Charley-horse throughout most of the muscles of my body, lasting up to four hours at a time several times a week is where I found myself.

Now for the Good News. I learned of and was fortunate to benefit from a brain surgery called a pallidotomy. This was the first of two which I hope are the steepest climbs these now 56-year-old feet will have to make even though I found great treasures at the end of each journey. Less rational believers would call them miracles.

I was too exhausted after surgery to notice much at first. But sleeping nine hours was my first indication that there was something different. Previously I had been unable to sleep more than four hours a night for the past several years.

As I lay in my hospital bed trying to become aware of this new day, my neurosurgeon literally flung open the door, personally redressed my incisions, complaining in a joking manner that he was the brain surgeon and should not have to engage in such mundane tasks. Next he requested in a commanding tone for me to get up and walk for him. I did as I was told and, to my shock and amazement, my feet carried me down the hall, around the nurses station, and back while the Doctor was bragging and cheering me on in a voice that did not fit the 5 a.m. hour.

“See this guy he could not walk yesterday,” he boasted. I tried to make an analogy between the Doctor and Christ but it broke down with his cheerleading act. Nonetheless, the results were just as dramatic as if God Himself had commanded me to walk. Like Peter walking on the water I still had doubts and thought at any moment my feet would give way and I would end up in a heap in the corridor before I could get back to the security of my room. I soon found myself back to my bed and began to take in the joy of the miracle.

Equally dramatic was the ride home later that day. First I noticed the cool fall air as I stepped outside the hospital into the sunshine. I remember thinking when I walked in the same door 48 hours earlier that this might be the last time I am outdoors or that I might come out in the same state of health as I arrived or even worse. Things were different now.

Our first stop was for lunch at a fast food outlet. For over a decade eating out for us consisted of going to the drive up window and eating in the car because the mental stimulation of the restaurant was too overwhelming.

Today was different. I said to my wife Carolyn: “I think I want to go inside.”

As she got our meals, I found a seat with the sun streaming in through the window.

“I can feel it,” I exclaimed as she came by with our food.

“Feel what?” she inquired.

“The sun,” I said simply.

I hadn’t really experienced sunlight like this even before I was ill. I don’t remember what I had to eat, but it surely was a “Happy Meal.”

Now try as we will, neither I nor the physicians, can explain it, but I walked out of the shade of the forest where I had been lost for years into the sunlight of a familiar meadow. Mentally, emotionally, and spiritually I felt more alive and tuned into the world and others with an intensity I had never experienced.

Although my physical condition began to deteriorate within several months of the surgery as expected, my new personality held firm. Two and one half years later a new and improved surgery became available and somehow it was concluded that again I was a good candidate for another brain surgery. I don’t think I could have handled the trauma of more surgery except for my new found love of life and responsibility to God to serve him through serving others.

The Doctors, my family, our church, and most of all God came through again. As of this spring about the time of my 56th birthday my new brain pacemakers were fired up and I was transformed once more.

My body now can almost keep up with my brain. I am not cured, but feel the disease is under control. I am doing things I haven’t done in sixteen years like driving, participating in the activities of our church, talking with other Parkinson’s patients, and speaking to any group that asks. Now these feet of mine are happy treading with bold humility into all kinds of new places, with gentle pushes from the Lord.

“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” Psalms 119:105

David Carlson is a member of Community Covenant Church in Jericho, Vermont.

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