Church of Our Saviour

21 Marathon Street | Arlington, Massachusetts | 781-648-5962

Our Bodies, Our Minds, Our Care for One and Other

by Allen Whitaker, Co-Warden

Earlier this summer, I suffered a severe sprain to one of my knees. As a result of this injury I walked with greater difficulty than usual and it frightened me because my ability to compensate for injury whether in the guise of Cerebral Palsy or a sprained knee is limited. I was left with an acute sense of urgency for it to heal quickly. But healing for our fallible, vulnerable bodies doesn’t work that way. Change and healing often go hand in hand. While healing always takes place, it sometimes does not take the form we want.

After spraining my knee, I was seen by my primary doctor and an orthopedic specialist, who gave me a set of instructions and a healing regimen. I followed these instructions and after eight long weeks, my knee is now healed. However, the condition of my knee is also changed. It is still painful at times in ways and at times it was not prior to injuring it. My Cerebral Palsy, which I have had since birth, will never heal. It is a reality that no amount of medical intervention can change. I have tried throughout my life with Cerebral Palsy and recently with my knee, to overcome the challenges that these injuries present, work around them when overcoming them is not possible and accept that sometimes I can do neither.

In such situations, acceptance is the only way forward. Such acceptance is the most difficult challenge of all. Part of such acceptance is my understanding that I must do strenuous exercise regularly and watch my weight and what I eat. This is not merely for me because it is well known that all of us must do the same if health is to be maintained.

Within the ongoing debate about healthcare reform, passionate rhetoric from both liberals and conservatives has been voiced, some of which has been extreme, inappropriate and unhelpful. What both these responses represent though is fear of change. All of us want the best medicine available when we are sick. And we all want to heal regardless of the cost.

My father died in April of this year a few months before Senator Edward Kennedy died. My dad, as a result of old age, chronic neglect of his mental and physical heath died destitute. In the final months of his life, he would often make his way to the local hospital emergency room where, regardless of his ability to pay, received compassionate and quality medical care. When Senator Kennedy died recently, he was a powerful and wealthy man who also received compassionate and quality medical care which was covered by comprehensive medical insurance. Yet, the bodies of both these men were equally fallible and succumbed to the vulnerability of old age and sickness that no amount of insurance or medical care could overcome.

Whatever the outcome of the health-care reform debate, I think it is important to remember those things that we all share. We are all human and we are all mortal. We all have a responsibility to care for our minds and bodies as best we can. And, we must care for and love each other as best we can too. Because in the end, each other is all we have in this vast human community where we are born, where we live, grow old, get sick and die as part of our shared and sacred human reality.

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