MOOSE JAW — Mark Pickup was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in 1982 and for three decades, he told delegates at the annual Catholic Health Association of Saskatchewan (CHAS), he grieved his situation within a river of grief. Pickup was one of three keynote speakers with a fourth billed as an inspirational speaker.
Pickup was visibly angry at what he called “the odious and morally corrupt” Supreme Court decision on physician-assisted suicide. At times, he spoke with a strong voice and the enthusiasm of a televangelist as he described his journey to where he is now content and has “discovered purpose in meaning in my life through Christ.” He uses a power cart to get around and additionally has lost some dexterity in his right hand.
He described, graphically, the progress of his MS and the loss of certain abilities and functions. At one time, he said, he even considered suicide. “Had I taken it, I would not have known the love of family and friends and not have known my five grandchildren.”
It was “through the divine love of Jesus Christ” that he turned around his attitude. “Human fulfilment is not achieved by killing or suicide.”
Physician-assisted suicide, he said, is abandonment not dignity and it’s a euphemism for murder.
Pickup said he severed the past by taking a saw and cutting his beloved guitar in half, accepting he would never play it again. “My life has quality. It is to love and be loved.” He went on, “Jesus Christ can make sense of our anguish if we let him in our life.”
He ended with what he called seven spiritual blessing he has found in his suffering: Christ suffered; humility and pride are shattered; trust is learned; patiently persevere; suffering teaches faith; it arouses courage; and gives an eternal perspective. “Use the river of grief for good, for the common good today and tomorrow.”
Dr. David Kuhl, founder of the palliative care program at St. Paul’s Hospital, Vancouver, talked relationships with patients and staff. “The way we talk to people can cause more pain than illness.” He called it Iatrogenic suffering and it is caused by the action or inaction of the physician toward the patient.
Archbishop Emeritus of Keewatin-les Pas, Sylvain Lavoie, gave a reflection on hope. Hope Floats was the theme of this year’s conference. “Hope is based on God’s promise and the resurrection,” said Lavoie. He advised delegates to live with increased hope and share hope with others.
Phil Callaway is a comedian who had delegates laughing in his hourlong presentation. He talked about his experience in caring for family members interspersed with his brand of humour emphasizing God’s gift of laughter.
Regina Archbishop Donald Bolen celebrated the closing mass. He noted in his homily that “Catholic health institutions are called to carry forth Christ’s healing ministry in the midst of very trying times, but to do so trusting that God’s grace is greater than any of the problems we face.”