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Celebrating Denny O’Leary’s grateful outlook on this World Parkinson’s Awareness Day.

I didn’t see it coming, but those three little words, when spoken to me by my dad a few years ago, would go on to profoundly impact my worldview.

You see, for three decades, Parkinson’s disease has robbed my dad of his ability to work, type, write, drive, walk and speak.

As a result, it has become nearly impossible for him to socialize with others or participate in personal hobbies. As obviously difficult as this disease is for my dad, it amazes me that you never hear him complain.

One day a few years ago- no doubt while preoccupied with my own day-to-day challenges- I was moved to ask dad how he remains so positive in the face of such difficulties. Dad responded immediately:

  • I am grateful it wasn’t a more serious disease.
  • I am grateful for the time to reflect on who I am and who God is.
  • I am grateful for my relationship with your Mom; we’ve grown even closer.

Here is a disease that rips everything from the sufferer and he is grateful it wasn’t worse. A disease that forces him into isolation and he is grateful for the time to reflect. And a disease that causes him to be dependent on others and he is grateful for that relationship.

What a mic drop moment, I thought!

I stood to give my dad a big hug, but he interrupted my effort, and quietly but firmly said to me: “Sit back down, John. I’m not finished.” He continued:

  • I am grateful for medical technology – and those who provide it.
  • I am grateful for the empathy I’ve gained for others who struggle.
  •  When I can’t walk or speak, I am grateful for the days I could.
  • When we drive, I am grateful for the handicap spot.
  • I am grateful I was given the time to write Overwhelming Odds.
  • I am grateful to still see, hear, learn, laugh and love

He paused for a moment. Cleared his throat. And added:

  • And I am grateful for being healed, even if not cured.

In the midst of this terrible disease, his intense physical pain, the stress on his caregiver (my mom, another one of my heroes), his inability to earn a living, the resulting financial struggles and his immobility my dad chooses gratitude in the midst of a storm.

He claims a life he loves.

And I’m so glad he made me sit back down that day.

My friends, we all know people who have everything … and are grateful for nothing. We also know others who have nothing … and are grateful for everything.

The most joyful people and most effective leader choose gratitude.

They choose to seek good each day in their challenges, their opportunities, their relationships and their world. The reward of their choice is the discovery that in pursuing good today they unlock even greater gifts tomorrow.

Friends, today is World Parkinson’s Awareness Day. We have a choice today (and every day) on purpose or by default, to feel gratitude or ingratitude. In honor of my dad and the millions of others impacted by Parkinson’s, I challenge you to make the choice to fill your heart with gratitude.

It does not come by itself, but with other incredible companions that ignite joy, possibility and the truth that the best is yet to come.

This is your day.

Sit. Back. Down.

And Live Inspired.

9 replies on “Sit. Back. Down.”

A wonderful friend of mine shared this message with me. My sister has parkinson’ s with dystonia and it has completely changed family life. Your father’s message, Sit Back down has really touched me. Gratitude is the most important Grace we must have and empathy. I am grateful for my sister, my brother in law, her 24 hour around the clock caretaker and GOD. I pray for all in this same condition and their caretakers. God bless you all!! and we hope to see one day a cure for this disease and to see life through their grateful eyes. I always ask my sister how she is and her response is GOOD!!!!!!

Special blessings for your fantastic dad on this World Parkinson’s Awareness Day! Kudos to your dear mom and all your family, too, I for their beautiful example of transformative family love. I am honored to call you my dear friends.❤️

So much of my own experiences and feelings in my journey with MS are captured here! As reflected on by your dad…There’s So much good in life and so much to be grateful for! Still it’s so hard to let go of everything we thought we were and accept where God has placed us. Much love to your dad for his beautiful example of redemptive suffering this Holy Week. And to you for honoring him still as a father, a human being and an amazing soul!

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