Some Personal Reasons for Gratitude

Have you ever received a government document that seems to make no sense? You read it over several times but you are at a loss know how to deal with it. This is the dilemma of Larry with every written thing he now encounters: books, journal articles, instructions on what to do in his personal care home if there should be a fire and so on.

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I visit Larry, who is an old friend, both in the sense of longevity of our relationship as well as his age (and mine), about once a week. He lives with the condition known as corticobasal degeneration, which is similar to, but different from, the more common Parkinson’s disease.

Among the clinical challenges associated with corticobasal degeneration are aphasia, or the ability to swallow, ataxia, or the ability to co-ordinate muscle movement, and dysarthia, or the ability to communicate in meaningful sentences.

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In terms of his reading Larry has moved from studying and understanding the work of J. Bernard Lonergan to having another friend read him the work of Zane Grey. During my last assignment to Winnipeg Larry was working hard on a book delving into Lonergan’s metaphysics. He was communicating with other Lonergan scholars and had received, as they say, “positive feedback” about his work.

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He had almost completed his book when his corticobasal degeneration thrust him away from his research on Lonergan into the direction of listening to Zane Grey’s narratives being read to him because, while he could no longer make sense of what was printed on the page in front of him, he could understand what was read to him, if it was not too complicated.

Larry’s situation is a stark lesson to me about the fragility of my own talents and physical abilities. Too often I fail to recognize that they are gifts from God, undeserved and unearned by me but given for His greater honour and glory (AMDG). Should, like Larry, I find myself one day to be without them, that also can be for God’s greater honour and glory.

John Perry, Sj, is doing pastoral ministry at St. Ignatius Parish, Winnipeg and is researching and writing at St. Paul's College..

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