Parkinson’s, Fear and Transforming Both with Dance

love knows no bounds

Slumped over the steering wheel I wondered “What am I afraid of?”. Not being enough, probably. My year had already been filled with so much loss. Now, having to face my dear friend’s decline due to advanced Parkinson’s seemed more than I could bare.

“What do I want to give my friend?” I thought next. Getting out of the car, I resolved to give her my full attention. I simply wanted to be there for her. Nothing else mattered.

Marguerite’s home nurse greeted me at the door, warning me that she was having a particularly bad day. Approaching her room, my anxiety returned. I ignored it.

She lay on her side, eyes closed, even though she was awake. She seemed uncomfortable. Her nurse shared that she was feeling less pain than earlier that day. Her arms, tucked neatly under her pillow, contrasted with her legs. They moved forward and out in random movements from beneath the bedsheets.

Sitting beside her, I placed my hand on the metal bed rail and stayed there for some time. Her eyes remained closed while the nurse let her know I was at her bedside. Reaching to move a strand of her chestnut gray hair from her forehead, Marguerite opened her eyes and managed a smile.

Taking my hand into hers, she asked me how I was. She then gestured to her CD player, asking me to play something from Cuba. I put on Celia Cruz, one of her favorite singers.

She asked me to dance for her. So I did.

I danced the dance of Oshun, the goddess and archetype of love and the river according to the Afro-Cuban religion, Santeria. Ochun’s movements brought joy in the room. I made large and small movements trying to fill the space with Ochun’s energy, being mindful to not get carried away by the music. Marguerite’s love of dance was so pure, it was as if she were dancing we me.

Half way through the song, Marguerite asked her nurse to help her sit up. As she did, her toes touched the floor. I pulled up a chair and brought Oshun’s dance between us. Random leg movements became deliberate and under her control as she tapped out the song’s rhythm in perfect time. I joined her foot tapping with my own. The nurse joined too, and tapped the rhythm on her lap. We danced together.

Marguerite returned to bed for some much needed rest. Her eyes – full of life. We hugged goodbye and I promised not to wait so long before I returning.

As I drove away, I realized that it’s not whether I believe I’m enough or not enough. It’s in trusting that in focusing on love, the world opens and with it, more courage, more patience, more love. Even in years full of loss.

(Update: So incredibly happy to share that as of the writing of this post, Marguerite’s strength has returned. Miracles really do happen.)