Love to Heal

I wish to share my story of a very remarkable lady: Evy McDonald. When I first heard Evy speak, I was at an annual conference of the American Holistic Medical Association (AHMA), over ten years ago. She walked easily up to the podium, and held all of us spellbound by her one-hour presentation, regarding her own healing. Because I am still inspired by her story, I wish to re-tell it here, as best as I can remember it.

Evy had had polio as a young child, which left her with some muscle weakness. She described to us how her third grade teacher had told her that she was too impaired to become a nurse, so she should just allow others to take care of her. This impelled Evy to prove this teacher incorrect: she studied hard, and eventually did become a nurse. Not only a nurse, but eventually held the position of senior nurse for the intensive care unit of a hospital. As you can imagine, this is a very responsible position. Evy proceeded to tell us that on one day, three occurrences totally turned her world upside down. She was given the diagnosis, by the specialist physician who was caring for her, that she had Lou Gehrig's disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. This illness even now is considered a death sentence. From the Western medicine perspective, there is no effective treatment, and patients suffering from it eventually die because they cannot move their muscles of breathing (this occurs after all the usual muscles of the arms and legs have become essentially non-functional). Furthermore, Evy was given notice from her supervisor that she was dismissed from her job. On this same day of receiving these two blows, she heard that her apartment had been robbed!

Evy was a very knowledgeable young woman. After partially recovering from the above whammies, she decided that she was going to do everything up right, making arrangements for the kind of funeral she wanted, etc. Of course, the specialist who had made her diagnosis must be correct: she had at the most another six months to live. She felt very fortunate that a minister and his wife decided to take her into their own home for her final few months. By this time, she was quite incapacitated, in a wheelchair. However, she was still able to get outside on her own, with fair difficulty. One day she was at the grocery store, and was feeling put out and irritable as she had to wait in line for checkout. She heard the checker wish a cheery greeting to the person who was finally finished, right in front of Evy. Wheeling herself on up to the counter, Evy vented her irritation on this checker - after all, Evy knew that whatever was upsetting her at the time should have been taken care of by the store, and here is the perfect representative of the store, the checker. So Evy lashed out at her. Then, as she left, Evy heard the checker greet the next person in line with a very subdued, unhappy tone. Evy realized that this was in response to her own interaction with this checker. And she realized she was not proud of this.

Now, it so happened that the date for Evy's death did not occur on schedule. Evy definitely continued to deteriorate physically. However, at the end of her six months' time, here she still was, totally dependent on the ministerial couple. By this time, tempers had worn thin, and it was not comfortable for any of the three of them to live together. What to do? Well, it seemed that it was just a matter of time before Evy's inevitable death. However, she realized that she still did have a fully active part of her: she still could decide how to direct her attention for the remainder of her time on earth. And she realized that she wanted to devote her energy to learning to love. Now this was fine to make as a choice, but how to implement it? She found it to be the most difficult thing she had ever tackled. As you know, Evy was not a quitter. Against enormous odds, as best she could, she retained her choice to learn to love foremost in her consciousness.

She discovered that included in this choice was learning to love herself. As for most of us, she found this extremely difficult. She would sit nude in front of a mirror, feeling "like a bowl full of jelly in a wheelchair." Day by day, she persisted in her choice, to the best of her ability. Finally, she was able to discover one thing about herself that she could accept and genuinely love. As many of us know who have made internal choices regarding how we want to live our lives, one tends to forget this choice for what may seem like innumerably long periods of time, only to suddenly remember, and often start castigating oneself upon realizing this lapse. Yet Evy stuck to her decision.

Then, slowly yet perceptibly, the impossible started to happen. Evy started to get physically better: able to move some muscles a little bit that she had not been able to control at all. Evy knows that this was road to healing for her was the most challenging part of her life. And she knows that it was her choice to love that was the critical factor that turned her physical situation around. She had not been seeking healing per se, yet it came as she committed herself to loving, as best she could, and as difficult and against the comfortable grain as this was to do.

As I mentioned above, Evy delivered her one-hour presentation to those of us in her audience, as we sat rapt with attention. I understand that she has been working with an organization dedicated to helping improve out planet. Several years ago I found an article in a well known medical journal had be authored by her, an article regarding positive results of research done on patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis who were taught holistic healing modalities.

What does this have to do with you, and me? I am always inspired when I remember Evy's story. At this year's AHMA convention I heard a song written and performed by a guitarist who too was inspired by her life. The choice any one of us makes about where we will direct our attention does impact others far beyond our perception. Whether we realize it or not, each of us has the same opportunity Evy discovered: the option of dedicating ourselves to truly learning to love. For most of us, choosing this will become the most challenging, and most rewarding, task of our existence.

Written By Elizabeth Zook Coleman, MD


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