He was known as Russell to his friends, Elmer to the Army, Sweetie to his honey and wife of 49 years, Dad to his kids, Dat to his son-in-law, Grampa and Poppy to the descendants. No matter the many names, he was known as My Brother to Jesus and My Child to God.
His humor was simple but legendary. He cheered all in his path and those who were forced to listen to the same one liner one more time didn’t stop him due to the
victim’s listener’s deep respect for him. He was passionate about his faith and his family, equally passionate about his politics, being a “laborin’ man,” and would defend the underdog even if he didn’t agree with him completely. Being an underdog was enough.
He died of a low grade infection that slowly shut down his worn out vital organs in 5 days, too soon for out of state children to rush to his bedside to say good-bye. The infection killed him but the Parkinson’s wounded him to his core. He watched it ravage his body for about 10 years. The muscles he’d built into tremendous strength in his youth were weakened by the constant motion and twitching. No longer cheerful, no longer a source of humor, he would sit in his recliner and hold his one big hand with the other but the shaking was relentless. It couldn’t be stopped.
It ‘s a cruel, debilitating demon that never lets up, doesn’t let go. Medication can make it crouch in the corner only for short periods of time. Take too much, the symptoms exaggerate. Take too little, the same. Take nothing and it’s out of control. The perfect medication balance is a relief until the disease increases in intensity at which point nothing works. You shake. And shake. And shake. Cruelty in one of its ugliest forms. It’s a slow, slow death if indeed it is fatal after a thousand years of suffering.
When Mom died on May 27th, Dad was left alone in the room until December 23rd when we imagine Mom calling to him “Russ–sell! It’s Christmas time. Get up here!” For those months he wordlessly sat all day and slept in his recliner. His only complaint besides the disease was the flashing 12:00 on the VCR. We would reset it over and over but the power was turned off every night. The next morning it would flash again. He lit up only when his kids came to visit.
He lost interest in movies, his Gunsmoke tapes, the news, the radio. His hearing was so poor if he wasn’t permitted to turn it up to 300,000 decibels, it wasn’t worth the effort to turn the “dad-blame thing” on. So he sat. And shook. When he quietly went Home in his sleep, the demon beast at long last let go.
Imagine for a moment that he was still alive, still in his house in Cameron and saw Michael J Fox, a famous and therefore, informed man on TV, also a victim of Parkinson’s talking about a cure. Not being a man of science, being hard of hearing and consistently missing key information, what would the man I once knew do? I know precisely what he’d do …
He would pull out his trusty portable manual typewriter and methodically type out via the hunt and peck system with shaking hands a letter of thanks and praise to this young man. He would get in his car and drive to the library to see if he could find information on the research into this wonderful elixer this man was promoting. His eyes would have light and hope. His hours would be filled with purpose. He might even ask around and find other Parkinson victims and get involved. He would preach to anyone walking too slowly to get away and maybe even collect donations, write his congressman and senator. Knowing Dad, he would call the White House. Daily.
He would call me. I would have to burst his wonderful bubble. Dad, …….
- The embryonic stem cells this man talks about are pulled from aborted babies that the pro-choice people call tissue.
- Fetal stem cells have been researched for possible cures for over 20 years with zero, zip, nada promise let alone a single result except to cause brain tumors in mice.
- Adult stem cells and stem cells from cord blood have produced actual results.
- The young man manipulates his symptoms with too much medication or none at all to make his point in front of cameras and committees. He admitted that in his own book.
- He was talking about a constitutional proposal on a Missouri ballot that would create government funding for cloning that has nothing to do with stem cells or Parkinson’s.
- His purpose was purely political and partisan.
- The Parkinson’s Foundation had nothing to do with his political promotion.
- He spoke for one political party. The opposing candidate he mentioned voted for stem cell research while the candidate he was endorsing did not.
- Fetal stem cell research is legal and supported by both parties nationwide at all levels though not fully funded by taxes.
- His goal is to get government funding aka your taxes through Pity Publicity because private funding isn’t there. Because fetal stem cells have failed to produce.
- He wasn’t tricked into this production. He knows everything I’ve told you.
He lied, Dad. He lied to you and all the others praying for hope and relief from this beast on your back.
At first, Dad would not believe me. Then his tears of disappointment would give way to hurt, soon followed by lightning bolts of rage and a lion’s roar from his gut. Anyone ever seen Elmer Russell Murphy, the gentle man with the tender giant hands in a complete rage? No? Then just trust me and step back a few paces.
So far, he can control his symptoms with meds. Soon, he’ll be in the same part of the prison my dad occupied, rolled up and shaking. If Dad were in the cell with him, he’d empathize, he’d comfort him. Dad would witness of the love of Jesus to him. He would reach out his hand of friendship, shaking or not.