Not long ago, I was in a heated discussion with a friend. His anger peaked when he said, “Go to hell.”
My sincere retort was, “I have been to hell and I’ll return there many god damn times before my demise.”
My friend stared at me and said, “What do you mean?”
As a Catholic I have heard the term “hell” most of my life. In Christian theology, Hellis the place or state into which by God's definitive judgment unrepentant sinners pass either immediately after death (particular judgment) or in the general judgment.
Many Orthodox saints and writers assume the general view of hell as a place of punishment, even by means of material instruments such as fire, whether of the soul after death or both soul and body after the resurrection".[ Saint John Chrysostom pictured hell as associated with "unquenchable" fire and "various kinds of torments and torrents of punishment".
I envision hell as a place of infinite doom. Once you enter you know you are there for an eternity. There is light, but not too strong. Eternal flames produce the light. The bodiless souls are more than shadows. Faces are the only physical parts of the body visible. Various stages of facial distortions are everywhere. You can’t tell the sex of the figures. The more distorted the face, the longer the soul has been here. Non-stop, ear piercing, non-human, horrific screams are everywhere. The screams prevent one-on-one communication among the souls. The distortions prevent the souls from recognizing family members and friends. The endless sea of figures are the same height. One gets the feeling there is a defeatist attitude among the souls. The defeatist attitude comes from the realization that they will never see leave this pace.
The physical pain that these souls experience is beyond description.. It is real. It is agonizing. It is demoralizing. It can be deadly. It can warp a soul’s mind. It is a pain that I can relate to as a Parkinson’s disease victim. Maybe that’s why I am here. To tell the world that living with Parkinson’s is a daily hell.
I know I have been to hell when I wake up at night, and my jaw is locked so firmly that I can’t talk. The sounds that I produce cannot be understood. Fear paralyzes me as I wonder will I ever speak again My legs feel as though they are being squeezed by a vice. On the back of my left leg, two inches above the knee cap there is pain stretching across the leg. Accompanying the pain is a burning, aching feeling running across the leg. .My left ankle feels as though someone is striking me with a hammer. My teeth feel as though ice cubes are banging into them. I can’t close my mouth. There is severe pain behind my left ear. The paralyzed fingers on both hands have formed a claw. Every time I breathe, it feels as though someone is hitting my back with a baseball bat. My lungs feel as though they want to explode. There is pain around my heart, and I have trouble breathing. It takes hours for these symptoms to go away. As I battle these symptoms, I want to die. But I can’t surrender.
.While I am fighting this daily battle, I see myself standing outside in hell. I don’t know how I got here. I can hear the whaling. I can see the distorted figures. I see frustrated, angry souls trying to communicate to one another. I am thinking II don’t need to see the pains of others. II want to be elsewhere. But I can’t move. Two, sometimes 3 and 4 times daily I relive this hell. When I can finally talk, I curse the recently waged battle. I curse it again and again and again. Sailors would blush at my expletives.
I know. I am in hell while praying to God to end my misery, and my prayers go unanswered year after year.. I wonder what it takes for God to respond to petitions from priests and sisters, from hundreds of people many, many times holier than I will ever be. I thank them for their concern and prayers. I am convinced that I am not included in God’s miracles.
I know I am in hell, when pain medications are as useless as a $40 bill. Sometimes the medications work. Too often they don’t. When they don’t, I know I am in a toe-to-toe, fist-to-fist, blow-by-blow hours long Parkinson’s battle(s). These battles are physically and psychologically exhausting. Too often I find myself rolling on the floor looking for a place to rest that will ease the pain. But I don’t find it.
I am preparing myself for another visit to hell.
John Williams is an award-winning writer who covers disability issues. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He coined the phrase “Assistive Technology