Friday, 25 Oct, 2019
I found out around 2008 that my Dad had ALS (Lou Gherigs Disease). It's an incredibly awful disease that causes the muscles to atrophy, resulting in paralysis and eventually death. For some it happens slowly and for others it happens in a matter of two months.

For my Dad, thankfully, we had about 5 years with him after finding out. It began slowly, where at first he would occasionally fall as his legs began to weaken. Then they had to move the bedroom downstairs as the stairs weren't safe anymore. Then he had to get a walker, then a wheelchair, and then when his arms further weakened we had to get him a power wheelchair.

Soon after he could no longer use the restroom on his own, or scratch an itch, brush his teeth, raise a fork to his mouth for a meal. Through all of this his mind remained healthy, and thankfully his vocal chords still worked. In his last days he was able to talk and use his thumb to text (if the phone was placed there for him).

One night, after I had been to Dallas to visit him two weeks in a row,  I was back in Austin and received a call from my Brother Matthew. It was late and I remember that I almost didn't answer, but it occurred to me that my Brother never called this late and I should answer. I picked up the phone and he frantically said "pray for Dad we are rushing him to the hospital". He called back again about fifteen minutes later, "the Doc says it doesn't look good, he's probably not going to make it". More prayer.

Another call. "He's gone."

My heart sunk. In an instant my Father was gone. I remember wanting so badly just to be able to hug him again and tell him I loved him.

Now years later, I am still learning from him. Somehow, while he was paralyzed and enduring the inability to move when he wanted, trapped in his own body, he remained a joy to be around. He was positive and lacked self pity. He was faithful. I'm sure he had moments of weakness, he was human.

One of my fondest memories is when my Brothers and I would take him to see the Texas Rangers play. The walk to the ballpark was a long one, and my Dad would just suddenly floor it in his power wheelchair. It was as if he was experiencing freedom and joy in one of the few ways he could. I love still seeing him fade away on that power wheelchair.

When I think about my life and the things that agitate, frustrate, or piss me off, I am often reminded of his situation. It gives me perspective. One of the most important lessons here for me is gratitude. I have my health. I have half of my life in front of me. I have my family and friends. I'm sober, not enslaved to cocaine or alcohol. I have the ability, the gift, to help others find freedom.

I am incredibly thankful for these gifts and for each day that I have been given. I will choose to live.

***To Dad. I love you. Your faith still inspires me. Your courage uplifts me. Your surrender humbles me. Thank you.