Hopeful Suffering

A woman who refuses to give up.
by Mark Thelen, L.C. | Source: Good News

Deanna Aikman is not an ordinary woman. She is not an ordinary Christian. She is extraordinary. Deanna attends daily Mass, Friday Eucharistic adoration, and courageously shares her faith with others, most often without spoken words.

What makes Deanna extraordinary? She has Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS) and is confined to a wheel chair with no use of her arms and legs. Her speech is hardly intelligible. However, her mind is completely clear.

Many people would ask what a person could contribute with such physical limitations. Deanna is a perfect example of a tool in the hands of God.

Through her intercession and empowerment of people, Deanna has inspired the defeat of proposal B (a proposal for the legalization of assisted suicide in Michigan in 1998 - visit www.cmalansing.org/pdfs/CMA_letter_Dec_2004.pdf), the establishment of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission project (gathering people to pray outside abortion sites throughout North America with an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe near her feast day - visit www.priestsforlife.org/news/olofguaddec12event.htm),   initiating Friday Eucharistic Adoration at the local Catholic high school, and numerous other apostolic works.

Now what is on the heart of this saintly woman? Deanna does not wallow in suffering; she is filled with hope. Recently Deanna was invited to visit the local Catholic high school to speak with the senior theology classes. She e-mailed her message to Sister Sarah Burdick who choked up as she read the following message to her students:

"First let me say how much I love to be here with you each Friday in the presence of the Lord. He puts a special love in my heart for you. I want to tell you about the amazing things that the Lord is doing for me.

"I was diagnosed with ALS 11 years ago when our children were 7, 4 and 8 months. My illness is typically radically progressive, shutting down the motor neurons and leading to complete paralysis. Patients often require a feeding tube and assistance with breathing within two years. They take long lists of medications to help them manage the physical and psychological effects of this challenging disease. The average life expectancy is about three years.

"The Lord has sustained me physically so that even after 11 years, I have no need for a feeding tube, breathing apparatus or ANY medication.

"(When I learned ALS affects a person's ability to speak and to swallow, my heart sank. What would I do without Holy Communion? I don't remember what I said to the Lord, but I have always had a sense that He would take care of that and not to be concerned. So I never have. It is a miracle.)

"Not only that, but He fills me with his peace and joy so that I am absolutely astonished - there's no other word for it. It doesn't make sense that I could be happy but I can tell you one thing - whatever situation you are in, there's always enough grace for you to handle it. That must be why God is always saying to His people, 'Be not afraid'."

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