Today, Wednesday August 23rd, was a good morning in the McCarthy household, and a start to what turned out to be a very good day. It was my son Luke’s first day of school, his first day as a fifth grader. I got up and made him pancakes for breakfast , which was a pre- stroke routine for us during past school years. My ability to resume this role and having the balance to do it while standing and the ability to do it with my one good arm probably meant as much to me as to the boy who scarfed down 5 good size pancakes and fed the sixth one to our dog. His mom then was able to walk with him and his dog down to the bus stop.
Also on Wednesday, I used the local para – transit bus service for the first time and went to meet with Marie a case manager from the Office of Vocational Rehab. We were able to speak about resources that would be available to me, including some assisstive technology as I strive to resume my call as a provider of pastoral care and ministry and to carry out my vows of preaching the gospel and administering the sacraments. She listened very well and had some great ideas, some of which will have to wait until she obtains medical and rehab records; yet others can be followed up upon immediately- which I am doing. I think I will enjoy working with her and it will be of great benefit.
So I am blessed and thankful for these new beginnings for Luke and myself on August 23rd, 2017. I am emphasizing the date because it is just about 1 year 3months and one week since my stroke on May 17th, 2016. I’ve often wondered if I am overly or pathologically obsessive about the date of my stroke and marking the time that has passed since it occurred. But it has occurred to me that many of us hold on to and treasure specific dates, birthdays, anniversaries, or even the date of a loved one’s death or the date of a traumatic event or life change. Indeed I have held on to dates in this way throughout my entire life, Even if I forget to follow through and wish a friend or family member ”Happy Birthday or ”Happy Anniversary” .
The other reason I have held on so strongly to the date of my stroke is that I had that date in my mind for about 8 months prior. I will share my story of that day since I do not believe I’ve shared it in this blog yet. I was scheduled to preach at our worship and meeting for Lutheran Pastors in the Hanover PA or “Conference” on that date since September of 2015, since we sign up for preaching or leading the worship for the coming year at our first meeting in September. Even though It is a little intimidating to preach in front of esteemed colleagues- 90% of whom have more experience than I do and in front of mentors and representatives of the Bishop’s office; I enjoy preaching so I had the date in mind for all that time and was looking forward to it.
The worship and the preaching I shared went very well. It was a day where I felt quite strong- I did not have any notable fatigue or tremulousness or double vision or tingling through my legs that I had begun to associate with my still fairly recent diagnosis of MS. Several of my colleagues and I had a great lunch at my favorite place in town and then I remember having a fairly productive day at the office. Afterwards when I returned home, we turned right around and headed to my son’s baseball game. We were sitting right behind home plate as he usually was a catcher for at least a couple of innings. It was a bit of a chilly evening for May and I had a throw wrapped around me but it had been a great day and there was no other place in the world I would have rather been.
My son was in front of us up at bat, when I felt a strong grabbing sensation through my left side that I’ve never been able to describe but that felt different than the tingling and pricklies I often felt on a daily basis in my feet and legs. I remember being out of it enough that I did not keep track of Luke’s balls and strikes which I always do. Luke was walked and when the ump yelled “ball 4- take your base” I snapped out of it, and without thinking started to shout encouragement to Luke on the bases. “Luke you’re a weapon on the bases, remember you can be a weapon” After I did that, I turned to my wife Susan who was sitting next to me and asked her if that sounded right because somehow the words didn’t sound right to my own ear. She said they didn’t and that something was wrong with my face. It was then that I drew some attention and discovered I could not stand or lift my left arm. So that was the beginning of it all. On a lighter note I was told later on, that what I said to Luke actually came out as “Luke you’re a woman, remember you’re a woman out there” 😊
I recall all of this because there have been a lot of times, too many in fact to recall, between May 17, 2016 and August 23rd, 2017 when I did not think there would be any new beginnings, but I was reminded today that there can be new beginnings and even ones that include the resumption of previous roles and abilities.
May God bless you on your days of transition and loss and on the days where you begin again!