Broken hearted

My heart has been breaking the past few days over the loss of a long-time family friend. The son of one of my mom’s best friends — a dear woman she’s known since the 1950s — passed away from Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, on Monday.

Back in my North Carolina days, I was fortunate to be able to donate some of my time and talents to the ALS Chapter of the Carolinas, and from the work we did for them, I learned a lot about what this terrible disease does to your body — specifically from a man I met who was fighting it. Absolutely everything in your body fails you, except for your mind. Imagine having the same mind you have now, but living in a body that refuses to do anything but give up.

When I was little, my mom’s friend, Donna, and her family visited us frequently. Their oldest son, Tim, was a couple of years older than my older brother, Joe. They had a daughter about my age, who was named Carlone after my mother. And their youngest son, Danny, was about the same age as my younger brother, Jeff. They were close to my grandparents, too, and my family has remained close to them through the years.

Since we lost my father over 6 years ago, my own family has met incredible challenges — the biggest being the ones involving my mother’s battles with cancer. As strong as she’s been, I look at what her friend, Donna, has been through. Her daughter was tragically killed in a car accident in her mid-20s due to stormy weather. Donna herself is the primary caregiver to her mother, and her husband, who served the United States during Vietnam, was exposed to Agent Orange and is now suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. It was two years ago that she learned her eldest son, Tim, was dealing with ALS, and she had to sit back and watch his body give up on him. Yet she has never complained, and has remained incredibly strong through all of it. She is truly an amazing woman, beyond what I can even articulate.

My brother said it best in a post on Facebook today:

Later tonight I will be near St. Paul, MN, to attend a Monday funeral for a long time family friend, Tim, who passed away last week from ALS/Lou Gehrig’s disease at the age of 40. His mother, Donna, & mine are childhood friends going back to central Wisconsin & the 1950’s. I have been posted Tim’s wife’s blog that she had been writing about her husbands illness. Please keep her, Barb, & their 3 sons in your prayers.

2012 has been a tough year for me. As many of you know, I have been dealing with a divorce & all the emotions of that. I have looked around for inspiration, motivation, & encouragement in a number of places. Scripture & famous people, who went thru adversity, have been the things that I studied the most. However, I kept finding myself looking at a modest & very not famous person in central WI. My moms friend Donna.

This is the second of three children that she & her husband have lost. A daughter died in a car accident 5 years ago. She was just in her mid 20’s. Her husband suffers from Parkinson’s disease. He served his country in Vietnam & had exposure to agent orange. She is the primary care giver to her 89 years old mother. And then ALS hit.

Lesser people would be ask why me? While she is grieving over her son, she has faith. Tremendous faith that honestly is awe inspiring. This past year, I asked why me many times. But then I would think about how I had the opportunity to go hit a 5 mile run while not thinking anything about it. While my friend Tim, lay not mobile in his bed at home, as Lou Gehrig’s attacked his body.

I will be traveling by myself. I wish my mother could be present with me. However some physical issues make the 16 hour drive a tough one. While it will be a long drive, & I expect to see the 1st snow of the year & cold temps, I feel compelled to be there. I have to be. I need to support, Donna, Barb, & their family so I can articulate how they have inspired me. Galatians 6:2

As amazing as Donna is, please keep her, as well as their entire family, in your thoughts and prayers. You can also read more about the story through the eyes of Tim’s wife here.

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