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'I want your heart - not your hands'

When talented pianist Susie Hare was told she had Parkinson’s, it looked like the end of her music ministry ...

When talented pianist Susie Hare was told she had Parkinson’s, it looked like the end of her music ministry. But God was leading her in a new direction, she tells SHARON BARNARD

Having used her hands to play the piano and lead worship at church for more than 30 years, Susie admits to feeling “slightly miffed” with God when she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2005. “And I had the temerity to tell him as much!”

What she heard in response came as a surprise. “God said: ‘But it wasn’t your hands I wanted – it was your heart.’”

Although this former music teacher had always tried to use her talents to please her heavenly Father, she realised then that her focus “had been on my hands instead of my Lord”.

The condition meant she could no longer play the piano as well as she once used to, but soon found God was taking her willing heart and graciously leading her in a new direction – to write worship songs.

She had written songs in the past, but would have to work at them. Now they come to her complete – the words and tunes seem to tumble into her head and she has to stop what she’s doing to scribble them down.

“I do feel God is now anointing me to write songs which come out of life’s experience and which are more powerful.”

It’s quite a big responsibility. “You are putting words into people’s mouths and thoughts into their hearts – you have to get it right.”

Nine years on from the diagnosis, Susie’s consultant says she is doing well but as Parkinson’s is a progressive condition she is under no illusions about what might be round the corner.

“Parkinson’s affects people in different ways. I don’t often tremor but I do have a problem with rigidity.

“My face isn’t as animated as it was and I have to remember to smile because smiling doesn’t come naturally now. My voice has changed considerably and is much quieter (not helpful when one’s husband is deaf!).

“But perhaps the most significant effect of my symptoms is that I have had to learn patience: things are achieved eventually, rather than right now.”

Susie’s husband Rob, their two daughters, sons-in-law and five grandchildren are all lovingly supportive and this close family and their praying friends have helped to allay many of her fears about becoming “a shaky old dodderer”. They accept her as she is and are all adapting and learning together.

But some aspects of the disease do get her down from time to time.

“The emotional side is more difficult for people to understand because it’s not obvious. It’s a private thing that actually makes you feel rather lonely.

“The panic attacks, the lack of confidence, the fear of crowds, the fear of being a burden – all things that weren’t there before have made me a much more anxious kind of person.

“However, attitude is all-important and I always aim to make sure my life rules the condition rather than the other way round. One day that may be more difficult to achieve, but for now I’m determined to win the fight!”

One of the ways Susie has been trying to win the battle is by writing her autobiography. She firmly believes God is behind that too because, like the songs, she was “astonished when the idea popped into her head and refused to budge”.

She’s donating the proceeds from book sales to the charity Parkinson’s UK.

“The more I thought about the idea, the more I realised what a privilege it would be to share what God has done in my life through his gift of music and his abundance of grace.”

She’s now trusting that other people will be able to see from her own honest and heart-warming story that “for each one of us, God has planned the journey for life that lies ahead” and discover that same hope and confidence for themselves.

  • Who has Planned the Journey? by Susie Hare is available for £5 + £1.20 p&p (cheques payable to S Hare) from Farthings, Powntley Copse, Alton, Hants GU34 4DL. www.parkinsons.org.uk

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