I’ll admit, I was nervous. I walked up to the door of the one-story house and stood there for a moment. Then I reached up and rang the doorbell.
Sheesh. Feels like I’m going on a first date.
“You must be Shawn!” the young woman said, answering the door. “Come on in. We love visitors. Breaks up the day for us.”
I followed her into the house and through the kitchen and into the living room.
“Hey, Gordie,” I said quietly. “It’s good to see you.”
There he sat, a friend of the family, around fifty years old. He smiled at me from his electric scooter, a quiet sort of grin that remained almost unchanged throughout my visit. His nurse moved the small cup with a straw from his lap to the table, then put an iPad down in its place.
His arms looked like they weighed a ton as he moved his index fingers over his iPad, divining a sentence. He recently wrote on his blog:
As for me physically, I'm doing about the same as the last report…[but] my speech is no longer understandable and my fingers and hands are becoming weaker. I'm trying to enjoy each day...
I waited patiently while he typed, trying not to peak over the edge for a sneak preview. Then he pushed one last button and a computerized voice spoke on his behalf:
“Hello. Thanks for coming.”
He looked up at me with an amused grin, as if to say, “Can you believe this thing?” I laughed.
“That’s quite the contraption, Gordie.”
I had been nervous about trying to communicate with him. But it was fine – towards the end of my visit he even skipped the iPad and tried to talk to me, low sounds emitting from deep inside of him. I found myself able to understand some of the things he said, which I could tell gave him a lot of happiness.
Around noon he typed something then pushed the speak button.
“My nurse has to feed me before she leaves at 12:00.”
Recently, Gordie wrote on his blog:
Now instead of playing guitar, riding motorcycle, playing golf, and all the other plans I had, I'm living life with a body wasting away, rendering me helpless to do anything on my own. This definitely wasn't the picture I had in my mind. Am I mad at God? At first I admit I was, but as time passed, I came to realize this is God's plan for my life and I have accepted it as such. I am in the winter season of life and when spring comes I'll be able to say, my life has been the one that God intended for me to live.
“I’ll see you in a few weeks,” I told Gordie. He smiled and nodded slowly. It pained me to think that trapped somewhere inside the body that was failing him was a sharp mind, completely aware.
I walked out to my car and felt like the smallest of thing would make me cry. Mostly I felt like I just had the opportunity to be in the presence of a real, live saint. I drove away, clutching tightly to those thirty minutes with Gordie, like a letter from a parent, long gone.
There is something to be learned from our suffering. It is natural to want to eliminate it, to wish it away, yet there it is, going nowhere. There is something we can learn from the suffering of our fellow human beings.
Sometimes, though, it’s hard to see clearly past the pain and decipher what the message might be. But Gordie is helping me with this:
Five years have passed since I was diagnosed with ALS…I was still walking, driving, eating, talking, and doing all my own personal care…Now I can't walk, talk, eat, drive, or do any of my personal care. It's amazing what we take for granted until we lose the ability to do the simplest of tasks. But I trust God with a bigger plan for my life than what I can see.
Shawn lives in Paradise, Pennsylvania with his wife, four children, ten chickens and a small mole that refuses to relocate from his garden. He loves writing and helping people find their voice more than just about anything else in the world. Be sure to check out his blog and follow him on Twitter.
Subscribe in a reader or by email so you never miss a post!