For John

“Stand-up” he demanded with a gleam in his eye and a smirk on his face. “Stand in front of me.” Her breath caught as he reached out his hands and pulled her closer. “What?” She panicked, thinking this was making her feel a bit uncomfortable. She had been here before. She trusted him with her heart and soul. They had been working together for ten months. He had done nothing to evoke fear and she knew she was safe. She knew this was going to be a test of some sort. She was up to the challenge, but still her breath shortened in its depth.

“Jump” he said. She looked at him with a perplexed smile. “What?”  He softened his grip and said firmly, “Jump, I want you to jump. Just simply jump.” She let go of his hands and laughed a nervous giggle. “Really?” Usually an articulate woman, in his presence she would easily become tongue tied. He knew she was easily frightened and had worked patiently to instill confidence and comfort in his care. “You want me to jump?” He reached for her hands again and said “yes.” She paused and moved one foot up and then the other. She was doing an inventory of her limbs. “Jump? What is involved in that,” she thought to herself. “I have not jumped or hopped in years.”

Actually it was over ten years since the DISEASE had hit and robbed her of her confidence in her legs. She was almost to the point of remaining permanently prone or in a chair all the time due to her inability to trust the muscles and ligaments that made up her legs. They constantly fought back with pain and Charlie horses and were covered by unsightly painful rashes that were the sister component of the DISEASE. She fell easily and even the task of walking had frightened her. She had spent hours sitting with this man as he worked with her to find a resolve to the pain and suffering.

The DISEASE was real. It had been diagnosed. At first, no one wanted to believe her. They said her pain was due to her weight. And as everything in her life that caused her pain, she was told it was her own fault. She deserved to suffer, because she had mistreated her body and was fat. At the point of the DISEASE coming to live with her, she was ready to take the blame for everything in her life. She had lost. She was a victim of everything including the body she had been wearing around like a housecoat made of shame. She acquiesced and let it win. It was the same body that had transported her previously in a multitude of activities such as tennis, bike riding, hiking and swimming. But somewhere along the way, the DISEASE became stronger and she failed even her own body. The shape had not changed in over twenty years, but the spirit was broken and the soul was suffocated.

She had sought out his help on the recommendation of a coworker. She had become so locked up that the smallest task was taking such effort to complete. She often sat and cried in her frustration. She had gotten so much better, but now the spirit to overcome her pain had left again. It made no sense because the turmoil of her previous life was gone. She was happy, she thought. She was in a place of ease with a job that made her feel fufilled and a home life that was comfortable and stable. She was secure in her relationships. She had accomplished her goals for her education. What was wrong? Why were the physical inabilities become so prominent again? She decided to follow up on the recommendation to see this physical therapist as a final attempt to stop the crippling progression of pain. There was nothing to lose. What she discovered was not at all what she expected.

There is a great plan out there for all of us. We are our own jailors. She had taken all the burdens of her past and stuffed them down inside. Since the day to day things were no longer an issue, the past demons began to erupt in her body and identified themselves as pain. She no longer had to survive an obstacle course of minute quandaries in the current world so there was space and time to deal the past. The soul instinctly knew that this was the time. Although it seemed like the progression was apparent overnight, it had be a long time coming to this point. It was the mountain that needed to be climbed and she had only the recourse to survive or die. The medicine that she had been given to contain the symptoms was producing its own destruction. She had been warned that it was a possibility, but her medical doctor had convinced her that the gamble was worth the price. The price included her kidneys failing, bleeding internally, horrific muscle spasms and at any moment, and the big C…cancer. She had already successfully negotiated a turn about the dance floor with cancer.  It was the price she had been willing to pay to dance with the devil, but the song was coming to an end. The progression of the DISEASE was no longer being controlled. This too had been foretold.

Her first visit produced such panic that the therapist was intrigued. She cowered in the chair thinking he would not see how terrified she was. He saw. There was no hiding anything from him. She put up a false sense of confidence and let him approach. As he gently laid a hand on her arm, she recoiled. He told the story of their first encounters to her later. She had acted like a trapped animal. He never left her vision. She never turned her back to him in the small room. It took three months of weekly visits for him to be able to begin the actual therapy that enabled her to be touched. She had asked if she could write to him as she was unable to talk about the things she needed to unburden her soul from. He had said yes.

She had slipped and fallen many times through their journey together. He had always been there to pick her up. At first, it was a ready hand but as time moved on, he encouraged her to use her own sources to get back up. She knew he would not let her suffer and within that safety, she sought her own strength. She could sense his frustration at times however he never made her feel inadequate. He always offered an explanation of what he was doing when she asked. She was a teacher in her trade; he was a healer who taught her much. Their relationship was more than therapist and patient, but of a guide and traveler. She knew he was a blessing placed in her path and told him often of her honest gratitude. He brought her through the pain to a place of healing that went beyond the physical. There will never be adequate words to describe the experience they shared.

But their time together was coming to a close. She had sensed it early on that spring and spent many moments of sadness thinking he would no longer be such an integral part of her life. She was afraid to tell him, but he knew. He had told her he would always be there if she needed him. She had heard that before and had been abandoned. How could she trust this person? She knew she could. The need was not the same as it was in the beginning. The resource of her healing was instilled within her soul being guided there by his gentle touch and teachings. He would always be in her heart. She knew it was time to work on the giving back and paying forward and she was grateful for being in that place.

She took his hands and stood in front of him as he sat on his rolling stool. Thoughts of “what if” raced in her head. What if she toppled on him? What if on the approach back down, her foot was not there? What if her ankle gave out, which it was known to do even without jumping? He calmly waited, his eyes locked in hers as she searched for answers. “You have to trust  God on this one,” he said. She remembered and became aware of the flow racing through her body into his hands and circling back out to hers from him. This is the gift he had given to her: the time to heal and to learn the resource of all healing. It was not something he had ever articulated or prescribed. He had just cleared the path and allowed her to find God all on her own. She had chronicled her foray into the spiritual world and he had only occasionally asked a question or two for clarity. He had never forced his beliefs and often she had written and asked for his views. He guided her towards authors and speakers and allowed her to pick and choose the values and beliefs that fit her individual spirit. She could not say when it all came to be, but the Spirit flowed and she knew. She just knew.

She lost herself in his eyes and released her fear. She jumped. It was not a mighty leap, but she left the earth. That was all that mattered. She was stunned. She landed and looked at him. He was beaming and said she looked like she was twenty again. She felt like a huge burden had been lifted and she knew this was the beginning of a new chapter. He was not done with the lesson and proceeded to produce a three inch piece of foam for her to jump onto. It might as well been a mile high as the impediment seem so great. Again, with patience and a steady foundation, she faced the obstacle. It took many attempts and then she lifted off and made the mark and then she repeated it. Was this not the account of their story together? He gave her the foundation and she took the leap of faith.

The cement that had filled her body and soul was gone. There was still work to do on both and there would be a need for occasional reinforcement for quite some time. She found comfort in that. She knew he would always be there to catch her if she fell. He believed in her like no one had ever done before. This unassuming therapist who laughed with his whole body, whose wisdom was immense, his patience unending and his ability to teach prodigious had given her life. It was not that he had magically cured anything; he had removed the chains that had bound her and were pulling her slowly towards her death. He had guided her to a boundless resource that when death did come to its inevitable time, she would be able to face it unafraid. He had given her many gifts of freedom and sensation that would be the tools she would use in the present and in her future.

Her gift of thanks to him would be her love for him forever.

 

 

 

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