The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Half a lung, half a lung, half a lung onward!

The blessings of living with an incurable disease

So these are some of the blessings of living with an incurable disease:

I can't run. (Not the blessing, of course, but one of its conditions.) I can scarcely walk unless I drag behind me a canister of oxygen, plug my nostrils with its plastic nozzles, and puff like the engine that could. An old man's advantage: I can use the canister's frame as a leaning cane. (Prop me up, O Lord, in all my leaning places.) I must give other, younger citizens the impression of a debilitated old man thinking old, debilitated thoughts.

photodiscBut one accommodates, you know. It's no great trick to exchange a past pleasure for a present one. When I go step-stepping across Valparaiso University's campus, undergraduates breeze by me and grant me the genuine pleasure of observation. What I am not, they are. What I cannot, they can. They have flashing heels. They have legs and long bodies carelessly athletic. The degree of my pleasure is precisely the degree of the difference between my slowness and their easy speed. Poor lungs and slow time have lifted me to a high spiritual vantage. Behold the beauty of human joints and muscles and the framework of human bones. The students breathe and walk and talk (cell phones!) and laugh and wave their arms all unconsciously. I am the conscious one. I delight in their proportion, their easy motion, the marvel of their unapologetic, long, elastic skin.

Perhaps dirty old men are nothing more than observant old men, smiling in the smiles of the youth who are mostly oblivious to their own smilings.

My brother is a triathlete. He stands 6 foot 3 inches, weighs 202 pounds, and is my junior by a mere 18 months. You should see the man's calves and the bulge of them. Mine are chancel candlesticks. O worship the God who oils a racer's knees and blows breath across the flowering fields of his lungs. I have become a connoisseur.

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