Love in an Iron Lung – Can you Love Radically?

Radical Love

I read an interesting story about John and Margie Cooper, a married couple whose life together provides a wonderful example of the power of unconditional love.  Margie was a 26-year-old mother of two boys living with her husband John.  Just as the world decided to quit destroying itself ending World War II, Margie contracted polio. Margie became paralyzed from the neck down.  You’d think a women struggling to live with this disease would be bitter, angry, and simply want to die.  Not Margie, she chose to live her life joyfully and as fully as she possibly could.  For the first four years after her diagnosis Margie resided in hospital polio wards unable to see her children.  However, John made sure he visited often and would project home movies of their two boys on the hospital ceiling so Margie could see them grow up.  Then, when conditions allowed, Margie was sent home but needed to stay within an iron lung to survive.  The iron lung was a type of respirator allowing the patient to breathe when the muscles in their chest could no longer do the job.  Polio patients often were left in this condition and the Iron Lung was able to extend their life.  However, it required the patient to be completely encased in a tube like machine with only their head exposed.  This severely constricted the patient but it did allow them to live if others would care for their many daily needs.

Margie remained in this machine for the rest of her life.  John was the operator of this life saving machine making sure oxygen continued to flow in and out of his wife’s body.  His daily routine consisted of making Margie breakfast, adjusting her hair to her liking, turning the television on and off as she wanted, and turning the pages of the book she was reading.  It’s said Margie became John’s vocation.  Numerous times John was asked why he continued to do what he did.  He gave up his ambitions to have one of the country’s largest onion farms, he had no one to help raise his boys, nor did he have any help in maintaining their home.  There was no sexual relationship in the marriage nor was their anyone to help with the slightest needs he had.  Margie could do little but show appreciation and love and that was enough for John. When Margie died John’s son wanted to know why he did what he did for their mother.  John replied, “I never thought about doing anything else.  You just do it, and God helps you.”

We see pictures of great saintly people doing things for others and we think to ourselves how special they are.  We think so much about how we could never do the things we see them do and question our resolve to be such a loving person.  This over thinking is the very problem keeping so many of us from loving others and serving those God places in our lives.  John Cooper reveals the secret to living a radical Christian life completely consumed in love in his simple response to his son.  He reminds us “He never thought about doing anything else” and “God helps you” in the process.  That’s a perfect reflection of a human being who understands the vocation to love radically and the secret to doing so with joy and affection.  One is to merely do and avoid counting the cost.

Right now there’s someone in your life needing loved unconditionally.  They’re hurt, struggling, and need someone to make time to show them they’re not alone in whatever life has thrown at them.  If we count the cost for helping them we might find it takes away from what we want to get done for the day, our ambitions, or our comfortable routines.  Don’t think about those things, they merely get in the way of exercising our Christian vocation to love.  Instead, merely make yourself available to the person in need and the God of grace and love and watch the miracle that can happen through you.  Learn a lesson in love from John and Margie cooper, their example preaches the Gospel in the simple acts of love they experienced in their married life.  If you’re still not sure how to get started take the advice from a simple Christian women surrounded by disease and death who felt a vocation to love others radically.

“Never worry about numbers.  Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.” – Mother Teresa of Calcutta

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