54 year old Joel Westbrook lives with adult onset Mitochondrial Disease. I am grateful for his words and his willingness to be a Lodgepole Pine.
Here is Joel’s post from our MFM site.
Thank you Joel.
We have had the privilege of visiting Yellow Stone National Park twice. We went once in 1986 and once in 1990. The great geysers, wildlife, and incomparable panoramas amazed us. We saw the buffalo, deer, and got a close-up of a moose cow and her calf. We took rolls of film and kept even more memories. The moose shot was likely a foolish one, we passed them while driving down a park road, and I stopped and got out as she stood on the road behind us, the calf off the edge in the woods that lined both sides.
Our travels to Yellowstone are not the only wondrous visits we have been able to enjoy. There could be very deep debates of what is the “best” place in America, (over the earth?). Even the geysers are not unique to that area of rugged beauty. Wolves, buffalo, birds and other scarce pieces of creation are seeing the park as a refuge from what might otherwise be extinction. It could be said that Yellowstone is one of the most diverse pieces of real estate we can so easily get to.
We saw the park twice, once before the fire, once after. Like most Americans, we sat by television news reports of the destruction. There were comments of how it might never recover. Supposed authorities cried this would be a tragedy from which there would never be full recovery.
Our second visit confirmed what some were very surprised to find. The burned areas had found new life. Small plants that had been shielded from the sun, now flourished. Diversity of life exploded after the fire. Even the animal life continued to go on and even multiply. The new life in the park would not have been except by the fire’s passage. We learned that the lodgepole pine tree cones don’t open except in forest fires.
There are things in life that do not come easy. Some great things only follow what others would define as hurtful. Expressions of love, depth of concern, level of compassion, and other big qualities of our humanity, are rarely seen or known by other means. People with Mito, Alzheimer’s, Multiple Sclerosis, and other silent thieves are the “Petri dish” of growth for those who must care for those who our society calls ill. These “ill” people (of which I count myself) are not the debris of life. These lives challenge our sense of normal, in love, in giving, in going beyond ourselves.
These lives are the foundries of greater being. Too many lives fill their length without doing anything memorable. Lives that breathed, ate, slept but never reached out beyond simple day-to-day that is called life (by some). It was my answer to such a call that led me to be a living liver donor. I saw a life that was nearing a sad end, potentially leaving a wife and three kids behind. The doctors were able to remove a part of my liver and completely replace the liver of a man I will call friend. I did not get paid for this (such is illegal), and it was not I who could gain that drove me. I gained being able to help. Now I am receiving from others having become one in the “Mito family”.
I believe in God. I know that when we have given to others, He knows and remembers. Maybe we should get T-shirts that say, “I am a lodgepole pine!” for the depth of challenges that care-givers experience.
More about Joel:
“I am a 54 year old Son, Husband, Father, former cop/corrections officer, hiker, bicyclist, rock climber, preacher, teacher, and Mito patient of 5 1/2 years. Miriam and I live in Trinidad, Colorado, a small town that suits our living. I would like us to be closer to doctors, medical providers and support group, but for now we are comfortable in our community.
I was born to stoic Iowa farmers. Miriam had a dad that was a career Air Force officer, so she had many places to call home. We have three kids who are out on their own. The older daughter (32) is married (and divorced so has heart pain in addition to fibromyalgea), who does computer tech. Our son who in the middle (28) is teaching English in Korea for now. Our youngest, a daughter (24) is getting married this October, who is in social work (also fighting fibromyalgea).
I am putting some of my available energy into a “boys club” with some of the teens and pre-teens in our church. I like working with my hands on cars, electronics, and house repair.”