I was helping my 86-year-old neighbor get dressed. After getting her shirt on, we grabbed her medications, and a sheriff, who was in the house with us, grabbed her shoes. I held her arm as we shuffled down the ramp together to where my husband was in the car.
The sheriff helped her into the front seat. I went to the other side and, after glancing for a second at the black, billowing cloud behind us, climbed into the back seat and shut my door. The sheriff then slapped the palm of his hand against the front fender of our car and yelled, “Go!” As we pulled away, I watched another sheriff pound on the front of other homes down the street and yell, “You’ve gotta leave, now!”
A billowing, black cloud followed close behind as we weaved our way through the streets of our mobile home park, trying to beat the smoke and flames.
No one in this little southern section of Oregon ever expected this. Not in a place where lush, green forests touch the heavens with their tall pines, cedars, and firs. Not where regular rains refresh nature’s dry spells.
After connecting my neighbor with her family, we filled our car with gas. We then drove through a nearby McDonald’s and proceeded to a hilltop facing west, where we watched the fire’s flames lick the earth of our little town as it went up in smoke.
As I think about one of the most frightening times of my life, my mind jumps from one emotion to another, not dealing with any of them before moving on to the next. Fear settles in, but before it gets comfortable, grief, sadness, anger, anxiety, and denial take a turn with my heart. Stress tends to play havoc with people who live with Parkinson’s disease. Because I am aware of that, I try to downplay the enormity of the situation present before me.
Three days after the fire, we drove to Boise to visit my daughter. I spent the first three hours of our seven-hour drive shedding tears I had left unshed. Two days later, we found out our home didn’t burn down. Thirty-three of 225 homes were left standing in our mobile home park. Of those 33, a dozen remain habitable. One of the homes burned elsewhere belonged to my son and his family. It is a heap of ash on a street still closed off to the public.
It’s been almost a month since the fire. Pieces of metal, large and small, lay strewn across our little park that we still call home. Scraps of steel are toppled over, creating makeshift pieces of fiery, abstract art. Any plastic that sat in the way of the devouring flames was melted into a new, unidentifiable shape.
As I walk around this now-unfamiliar place and smell the unfamiliar air that surrounds the unfamiliar sights, I still shed tears for the known and the unknown. As I walk among the charred and bent shapes of what used to be other people’s homes, it makes me think of my disease.
We are given a diagnosis and sometimes it rips through us like the flames of an out-of-control inferno. Sometimes, it smolders, and there is no shock of a diagnosis, but the result still devastates your spirit. You have been burned.
The devastation causes you to want to run as far and as fast as you can to escape the clutches of the blazing flames. But you can only run so far before becoming too weary, and the tears you have spent have left you dried up. You have become fearful of what may or may not come, and you cannot run from it anymore.
You sit down upon the wreckage that lies around you. How will you ever find or feel normal again when everything lies ashen and lifeless, both inside and outside of you?
If you look closely enough, you can see new life emerging from the ground near where you sit. It seems almost impossible, but it is there among the charred remains. It is only two small leaves, but they are enough to fill you with renewed hope as you begin the process of restoring your spirit and rebuilding your life.
And so you do: You rebuild — with hope — one precious day at a time.
Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.
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