The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


My retirement detour

A believer encounters chronic illness

“When you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go” (John 21:18).

Asthma inhaler and electrocardiogramThirty-two months ago I described the spiritual surprises showered on my wife, Lynn, and me as we toured for the first time many of the nation’s breathtaking aspects in “Holy surprises along America’s highways” (March 2006). It’s one in an occasional series on preretirement realities that includes “Plan B for retirement” (November 2005) and “Becoming new” (December 2006).

We chose our highways on that trip.

Now my family and others close to me find ourselves on a breathtaking road not of our choosing. I’ve been gradually losing a battle with allergy-induced asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Over seven months my health decline has become more precipitous. Six acute wheezing episodes insufficiently relieved by maintenance medications have reduced the quality of my life and that of those who care about me.

Recovery from the acute episodes lasts a month or more. The most recent bout led to the first hospital stay of my life, where my wife, a nurse and hospice case manager working one flight below, and I “celebrated” our 41st anniversary.

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