Cathy Chester | An Empowered Spirit

How James Stewart Taught Me How To Heal

Before taking the role of George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life” James Stewart took a break from acting after serving his military service. The war changed him and he needed time to recoup and heal. From then on the roles he chose reflected a much deeper and multidimensional persona.

“It’s a Wonderful Life” was James Stewart’s first postwar film.

In the scene when George Bailey contemplates suicide the director Frank Capra noticed something new in Stewart’s face, something deeply raw and thoroughly human. As Capra watched Stewart’s Bailey pray to “Father in Heaven to show him the way” the director wanted to capitalize on this heartbreaking performance. He spent hours editing the film so the final cut would show the audience what he saw. The angst of a soldier.

James Stewart’s career took on a new trajectory.


In a smaller sense I can understand how James Stewart felt. I don’t claim to have experienced anything like the violence and tragedy of war. But if emotions mold a person then there’s the parallel.

I’m fighting a different kind of war, one that involves a kind of loss. Loss comes in all different forms, mostly beyond our control. Today I see life through a different lens.There’s no going back.

Recent events changed me in ways I never imagined. The Utopian life I dreamed about as a child seems unreachable. Joy, grace, gratitude and hope feel distant and unattainable.

I need to regroup. I need to rest. I need to think. I need to heal.

MS is a cruel dictator. It has the power to decide at any given moment to erase pleasure from your life. It can remove physical and spiritual abilities and frighten you beyond all measure. When that happens you don’t recognize yourself.

As the stress of our move lingered and the dismal outcome of the election hung in the balance my body began to ignore my pleas of mercy. Numbness and weakness descended, and with it the ability to walk or care for myself properly.

I’m living with the consequences of too much stress while living in a place we’re unhappy with. Our buyer pressured us to move and we had no choice. This small, dark townhouse with its thin walls was the “pick” of the litter since there are currently more renters than inventory.

Everyone tells me to rest and that’s exactly what I’ve been doing. For a week I’ve stayed in my pajamas and watched television (my MS induced cog fog prevented much else) while my husband does all the work.

I cancelled our vacation (my 3rd cancellation this year.) I also cancelled Thanksgiving gatherings. Me and the hubby ate chicken and rice while watching TV in our pajamas. Not exactly the romance of yesteryear…


The election results haven’t helped. Those who know me best know how I feel about that. I can’t imagine anything productive or kind coming from the next administration and I fear for our country and its citizens.

It’s frightening to experience life beyond our control, to sit in the passenger seat unable to control the steering wheel. You can’t avoid the bad guys.

I long for my “normal” life when I can walk where and when I want, for as long and as fast as I can, without fear of fatigue or falling.

I want to travel again – anywhere – with my head held high without fear of repercussions from a country that is so divided.

Words fail me at the moment so I’m not sure how to end this post. I have no neat little ribbons to tie it in or inspiring prose to offer you.

As a writer I want to use words to soothe you. As a woman I want to say women will be treated with respect and dignity. As a patient I want to inspire others through my strong example, with hope for better research, alternate options for wellness, affordable healthcare and cures.

As a human being I want to spark others into action to fight for what’s right and good and to pray for the peace we richly deserve. And never, ever give up.

Despite all of this I have to believe, I must believe, there is more good in the world than evil and that good will always prevail.

I must believe my body will prevail. Positive thinking and a warrior attitude that nothing will get in my way. No matter how long it takes.

I’ll continue to advocate for my health and the health of others. I’ll also advocate for the health of our country.

Hope, joy, gratitude and grace will appear at my doorstep again. While I’m waiting for their appearance I’ll hold tight to the loving family and friends holding me up. They’ve never given up on me. They strengthen my resolve to fight for a better, healthier and saner world.

As Uncle Henry used to say, I hug you with my words.

(A footnote, pun intended: The feeling on my left side is coming back! I’m excited about that. Small victories are truly big ones.)

Thanks, James Stewart.






18 thoughts on “How James Stewart Taught Me How To Heal

  1. Helene Cohen Bludman

    Holding you in a virtual hug which will turn into a real hug as soon as I see you. And I hope that will be soon. Hang in there, Cath. You are a strong woman and you will get through this bad patch. Love you, girlfriend.

  2. RostandReads

    Love Jimmy Stewart, especially in Harvey! Having MS myself, I treat it much like Life. I could walk out my front door and be hit by a truck…or not. With the stress of life and the World, I could lose use of one leg. It could last a day or continue forever. Or it could go away, altogether (“It could go away.” Sorry…Old Airport joke.). Healing comes in many forms. Many don’t know how it works with us. All we have is ‘time’ to deal with in the end, whatever time we have…like Life. We do what we can. We make no apologies. We rest, stay cool, stay relaxed as we can. Others don’t always ‘get it’ which can cause stress, too. Our stress of the election will calm eventually. I’m a quadruple threat in this country now (black, a woman, Catholic, and married to a guy that looks ‘white’). Avoidance of The Walking Negatives helps me, lately. Promise yourself to focus on the positives and the blessings. You have other things on your plate. You don’t like where you live now. But you have a place to live. Sad Thanksgiving, but you were with your loved one and had food. Thank you for your concern for other citizens during your tough time with MS. It’s too easy for me to fall into the accompanying depression about what I can’t do anymore, with thoughts of the future and what it holds, but those with MS don’t “know” that either. Every day I wake up and think, “Could be worse, but still above ground, so I must have something to do today. lol”, I give thanks, and I feel a little better. Praying for you, Sister! You’re not alone.

  3. 1010ParkPlace

    My friend, You’ve had a lot of deep, life altering stress in a short amount of time. I know you’re taking time for yourself and gathering your immune soldiers. At the same time, envision yourself in a house you will love, once again being mobile and happy. My home buyers pressured me to be out. My first move was to an apartment that was so awful, I was there only 16 days. The next rental wasn’t my forever place, but it gave me time to find a place that was. Now I have a house, in a place I couldn’t have imagined, and I love it. You’ll find that place, too, my friend. Praying for healing and that you be guided in the right direction. Love, Brenda

  4. Janice | MostlyBlogging

    Hi Cathy,
    I am sorry for your physical struggles. I will hold good thoughts for you. As far as your political fears, please know you are not alone in your fight for the health of our country. Beautifully said, on so many levels.

  5. Nancy Hill

    So far behind in reading the blogs of friends… but I have been thinking if you and sending strength and healing thoughts. It is a Wonderful Life is my favorite, for all time. Be nice to yourself. You deserve nice.

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