We grieve the loss of a loved one in many, many ways. I have grieved at the bedsides of my father, my mother, and my brother. The outcome was never in doubt from the moment that they lost consciousness. But each was different.
My mother and father died of cancer. The vigils at their bedsides were long, heart wrenching ordeals. I stood with my brothers and waited for their bodies to give out. I said goodbye just before their bodies began to take them away from the sights and sounds of living.
My brother’s death was different. My brother and I stood by as Dan’s brain finally died. He was gone the minute the blood vessels in his head gave way. Those weak vessel walls took him from us. I talked to him as that happened. I heard him leave and I said goodbye.
Tonight I grieve for someone still living. She is trapped in a body that no longer functions. Five years ago she was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s disease. Slowly she lost her ability to speak, the ability to chew. Her muscles twitched and cramped. She has spent the last few months sitting on her deck, in the sun. She could still operate her electric wheelchair. She could focus her eyes. And, with a great deal of patience, she could communicate with her family.
Two nights ago the disease attacked her brain. She can no longer move. She can no longer communicate. She stares into space with no focus.
She is gone.
Her internal organs continue to work, fighting a valiant fight. But she is gone from those who love her. It happened quickly and no one got to say goodbye or tell her that she is and always will be, loved.
And I grieve. I am angry. I am sad. I am numb. And then I am angry again. I am living with a rock in the pit of my stomach.
I have been here before. I know the stages of grief. I know this. I am angry that I know what this is. I am angry that this had to happen to the strongest, most stubborn woman I have ever known. I am angry that this disease is taking my friend from me forever.
So, I ask each and every person that reads this to go to http://www.alsa.org/about-als/, read about ALS and then donate. It cannot help my friend but it may help someone else. It may help the world eradicate this devastation of neurons. This devastation of life. Maybe, just maybe it will help those who grieve.
Goodbye, Kathy. I love you.