I collect elephants. It is actually an adopted hobby from my maternal grandfather, when he passed his collection went to my mother and when she passed my brother and I divided the collection. Since then my collection has greatly expanded and each new addition ties me to my mother and grandfather. Other people collect sports memorabilia, frogs, birds, or nick-knacks that have meaning to them.
But in reality we are all collectors; memories, experiences, and beliefs. And those collections are fundamental to who we are as individuals. Each collection is complex and unique while at the same time simple and universal. And as we make our way on our journey we add to our collection.
Some pieces to our collection are small, yet still important. I love the smell of lilacs because there was a large lilac bush outside my bedroom window as a small child. That smell reminds me of the innocence of youth and the unconditional love of my parents. And I know that I am fortunate to have that memory and experience. II carry it with me and retrieve it every spring.
Some parts of our collection are larger and more important to our individuality. I am a different person because I went to law school rather than medical or engineering school, and because I went to Gonzaga and Marquette rather than UCLA and Stanford.
The most important piece of my collection, however is my faith. It has shaped my journey more than anything else. I am well aware of the arguments against faith and religion. And I have employed my limited intellectual ability to determine if God is real or if it is a fantasy that I am using to "cope" with my diagnosis.
God is real, he created this world and the universe and he sent is Son to redeem us. There are too many parts of my collection for me to conclude anything else. Too many prayers answered. Too many miracles to explain away. My faith is personal and experiential and definitive. It is the part of my collection that guides my journey.
For the sake of discussion, let me assume the contrary; there is no God. Then all of reality is by lot. There is no right or wrong, just human situational rationalization. There is no truth, no absolute; there is simply science based upon observable fact. I have ALS, there is no cure, I will soon die, and then nothing. There is no plan, no purpose for my situation. My only option is to face the cold hard reality. I can ask why, but to whom and for what purpose? There are no answers and there cannot be, because there are no observable facts to give me answers. Life sucks and then I die.
And with this blog I could share my depressing dark lonely reality. Spread the misery of terminal illness to make the reader's life just a touch worse. I could wallow in my disease, lashing out at the random injustice of cold hard reality.
Instead I choose to embrace my faith. To share with you that while facing the reality of my illness I have hope, and most importantly, I have faith. And ultimately that is the purpose of faith. To guide us through the highs and lows of life. To lead us to that which the faithful crave, life everlasting.
So I offer you this simple truth, that it is through faith and faith alone that I have found peace; peace in my illness, peace in my failures, peace in my successes, peace in what is before me. If the cold hard reality of life is not providing you peace, then try faith. You may be surprised at how your journey is changed.
Jim is am an attorney and graduate of Gonzaga University and Marquette Law School. He lives in Spring Prairie near Burlington. He has been in private practice for 17 years. He is in the process of closing his practice due to a diagnosis of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). He his married with 6 kids. Jim is a community blogger and is not a part of the Gazette staff. His opinion is not necessarily that of the Gazette staff or management.