Facing chronic illnesses with hope

By on November 1, 2003

Grace Casselman’s Knocked Off My Knees is a good source of education for someone diagnosed with lupus but, more importantly, it is a personal story which speaks to the heart and soul of the human condition when faced with a chronic or terminal illness. [pullquote]Thirty-two year old Grace had much to celebrate with a devoted husband, the gift of a new baby, and an interesting career in business journalism specializing in technology. But tragedy struck. Her whole world crumbled with the sudden onset and rapid exacerbation of lupus. Her battles with fatigue, excruciating muscular and skeletal pain, weakness, loss of motor skills leading to confinement in a wheelchair, made it impossible for her to care for her baby. Her debilitating condition stripped her of her dignity and made her totally dependent on others. She felt worthless as a spouse and a mother. She talks candidly about her battles, not only with the physical challenges, but with the psychological and spiritual aspects of dealing with her condition, and its impact on her family and friends. She also raises some interesting ethical issues as she writes about her hospitalization and experience with health care professionals. As the daughter of two ordained ministers who grew up in a strong Christian environment she gained courage and strength from the scriptures, prayers, a devoted husband and a very caring mother. Her story is one of inspiration and hope in the face of the trauma and challenges of a chronic illness. This paperback is an easy read and a good source of information for the lay person. In Broken Body, Healing Spirit, Episcopal priest Mary Earle, faced with repeated serious illnesses found comfort and healing in the application of the ancient Benedictine practice known as Lectio Divina and provides orientation to her readers on how to apply this process with Scripture reading and prayer, in a manner that allows a sick person to find the spirit of God, “in whom we live and move and have our being,” in the midst of pain and discomfort. She details the five stages of Lectio Divina . The anecdotes relating to the personal experiences of people with debilitating conditions, and the practical exercises, illustrate in a tangible way how to read the text of one’s body with scripture, imagery and art and how to build hope when faced with life’s challenges. Emphasis is placed on one’s ability to read and interpret his/her life story and the story of the illness in a scriptural manner, strategically following the guidelines. Mary Earle offers hope and healing to sick people, even in the absence of a cure. The application of this non-conventional process might best serve the sick person if practised as a way of life for Christians whose bodies and souls are fragmented. A valuable resource for counselors and those ministering to the sick. Bev Harvey is a parish nurse at St. Peter’s, Erindale, Mississauga , Ont.

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