This is an e-mail from my “terminal” friend Roger Mateer today. “I saw my doc this morning. He says my brain is still failing as is my body, yet I’m still doing better than I should be. He said I should continue hunting and having fun. He was impressed when I showed him the water buffalo I got on my hunting trip. Before we left the picture was shown to most of the staff as an example of what happens when someone believes that the word terminal means go out and live!”
“Go ahead and post this if you think it could help others dealing with the word ‘terminal’.”
This is Ken Davis saying that in one sense we are all “terminal.” This story will inspire anyone who is breathing. If you’re not breathing don’t read any further.
Roger is one of those people who had every right to be bitter and give up on life. He had two strokes before he was three years old. He developed life-threatening blood clots that the doctors could only remove by taking three-fourths of the frontal lobe of his brain. The fact that Roger was born with club feet and limited use of his right arm did not keep him from going to college, getting married to his wife Cindy and choosing to raise a special needs child.
Shortly after his forty-sixth birthday, Roger was diagnosed with early onset dementia and a life expectancy of four to eight years.
He decided to outlive his life expectancy just to irritate the people who gave the prognosis. It’s working. Against all odds he’s still going strong. Besides, so-called experts telling him his time is short is nothing new to Roger. After his childhood strokes, the doctors told his parents not to expect him to live past age five.
Before his diagnosis Roger had a near photographic memory. Today there are times when he can’t pull up a simple word or the name of an object. All his life he’d had limited use of his right arm. Now the left arm doesn’t work either. That all adds up to two bad arms, poor vision, limited mobility, an unreliable memory, and supposedly only a few years left to live.
What are Rogers options?
Choice Number 1:
A bitter spirit fueled by fear and hopelessness. Whereby you have someone sitting in a corner waiting for the end, dead but not yet buried.
Choice Number 2:
Unshakable faith in God and a passion to live every day fully alive. And the result is a man who gives more and gets more out of life every day than many young “healthy” people I know.
Roger’s unquenchable spirit and sense of humor are an inspiration to everyone he meets. As the disease progressed his sensory system began to play tricks on him. When he drinks a cup of coffee in the morning it can taste like anything from a hotdog to lemon rind. Mountain Dew tastes like a margarita (I’ll take two!).
Roger says that for him, mystery meat really is mystery meat. Many of his friends follow his writing as each day he picks a flavor of the day. One day he bit into a blueberry tart only to have his senses overwhelm him with the aroma of the blue sanitizing cakes in public restrooms. That flavor did not make the flavor-of-the-day cut. I have grown to love this man.
I asked Roger how this last round of physical problems affected his faith. His response was honest and without hesitation. “There are times when I get down,” he confessed. “People are afraid to associate with me for fear my disease might be contagious. But my faith is stronger than it has ever been before.
“All of us need to trust God. People like me know it because we are forced to lean on God, but many of us don’t. God has a sense of humor. If he didn’t, he would have given this to somebody else. I see God in everything – a ray of sun touching the leaves, the thrill of helping my neighbor catch his wayward donkey.” How many people have seen God while chasing a donkey.
Roger laughed and his mind took a detour. “A few nights ago I had a piece of meat stuck in my teeth. It was driving me nuts. Then I remembered that my teeth were in a cup in the bathroom.”
Another burst of laughter and then, with laser-like focus, Roger summed up what makes him fully alive. “I am not dying with dementia,” he said, “I am living with it.”
I have a few ailments that have inconvenienced my life. The nerves in my feet are dying, which means I can’t run as fast as I once did. I can’t remember where I put my car keys.
I have two bags under my eyes that won’t fit in the overhead bin. But whenever I begin to list my woes, I think of people like Roger.
I think of the suffering that Christ went through to redeem my soul. And I choose to live… forever!
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