Once upon a rare time, during a journey, a campaign, a lifes work, or a drive to solve the riddle of a disease, something comes along that seems to capture the essence of the enterprise, distills it brilliantly, and returns it back to the rest of us, the observers, in a shower of gleaming insights and soaring shouts of anger, of joy, of hope. This thing can take the form of great speech, like Martin Luther Kings signature call at the 1963 civil rights march, or a simple thank-you letter to a great doctor for twenty years of care and attention. What distinguishes such incidents from others is not only the power they have to rivet our attention and imagination at the moment when they happen, but the impact they often have on the future course of events.
Such an occasion is the publication of "Voices from the Parking Lot," a book of poetry, short essays, ruminations, paintings and photos by some of the people who live with Parkinsons disease. In part joyful, in part confessional, in part angry, in all totally human and utterly authentic, this book will be an enduring inspiration and community to millions who live with and daily defy this insidious condition. Perhaps even more powerfully, it will serve as a spur to conscience and call to action to those of us who are not direct participants in their daily struggle. It is hard, for example, to imagine a member of Congress reading the book who would not feel more strongly about committing the research funding necessary to cure the disease; a doctor reading it who would not resonate with its every rhythm and wish she could do more for her patients; or concerned folk anywhere, including this writer, who would not shed a tear before completing the reading of a poem like Camilla Hewson Flintermanns "Losses" or Jerry Finchs essay, "Loving and Sexuality."
Every one of its contributors, the ordinary folk as well as the literary lions (believe me, there are several!), speak from the heart and from their myriad experiences, some as parents, some as lovers, some as friends, some simply as messengers from the battlefield, telling the rest of us what it is like, day after day, living, as one author puts it, with "Morbus Parkinson." Their voices are as compelling as they are diverse (except for a rather alarming concentration of literary talent in the area of Perth, Australia) and they speak call out, in effect, from the inside of the Parkinsons experience to all of us.
For those of us who are privileged to work in organizations whose missions is to challenge and ultimately to defeat Parkinsons at the scientists bench, this message is hauntingly expressed in Michael Koontzs poem, "I am Here Waiting." "My biggest fear," he writes, "is that you will not see me here; dont walk on by."
We wont, Michael,
this I promise you.
Robin Anthony Elliot
Parkinsons Disease Foundation, Inc.