It doesn't seem fair that so many people get taken from us in the prime of their lives. Of course it's sad when someone who has lived a full life into their 90s passes away but it's devastating when someone is robbed of their life while they are smack dab in the middle of living it to the fullest. My lovely friend Lisa fought the debilitating effects of ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) for the last 6+ years and is now at peace and no longer having to suffer through the pain.
It isn't any easier when you know your loved one is dying and have to watch them deteriorate before your eyes. You know there is no cure but you still hold out hope that they will be the exception to the rule. They will pull through this and get better because the alternative is too horrible to face. When I was selling raffle tickets for one of the many fundraisers they had for Lisa my old boss kept repeating over and over again "she's going to die," "there is no cure," "you know she's going to die." I knew it in my head but in my heart I didn't want to believe it.
Lisa and I met over 20 years ago and worked together at 2 different law firms. We were more than just co-workers and saw each other pretty regularly outside of the office for the first few years. I attended her first wedding and was there when her marriage ended. I spent an entire day at the vet with her when she thought her cat ate poison (the cat was fine but it took us 6 hours to find that out). In addition to her full-time job she started a cheerleading coaching business where she hired me to be the photographer for the competitions and I would be awed to see her put the young girls to shame when she was showing them new moves and teaching them how to be better competitors. I remember spending a day at the beach together and she couldn't stop laughing as she threw french fries to the seagulls out of my convertible jeep while I screamed and pleaded with her to stop because she knew how much I hated birds. We definitely laughed about it afterward but I didn't think it was very funny at the time. I really have a terrible bird phobia especially with seagulls and pigeons but I couldn't be mad at her because she was just having fun.
I was so happy when she told me she found the love of her life and I was sure I would be going to another wedding as soon as her long-time boyfriend got up the nerve to pop the question and give her a ring. We eventually drifted apart over the years but when we did see each other it was like no time had passed and we would just pick up where we left off. We would often run into each other on the train commuting to and from work and would catch up with each others lives and promise to get together soon.
We both "married" into local political families and would see each other on the campaign trails of our city, luckily we were always campaigning for the good guys and on the same political teams. I would often see Lisa running by my house on one of her regular 7+ mile runs and watch her eyes light up telling me about her most recent vacation where she went scuba diving, horseback riding, dancing, drinking and just having a blast. Lisa loved life and loved to dance.
It was heartbreaking to see such a vibrant young girl lose the ability to walk and talk and eventually end up in a wheelchair unable to do anything for herself. She fought so hard against this brutal disease from the moment of her first symptoms of slurred speech until her final days when she refused to take any pain medication because she wanted to be there and aware with her loved ones all around her.
She was lucky in so many ways but only had 35 healthy years before she had to fight ALS for the last 6+ years of her life. She had the most loving and caring boyfriend who organized massive fundraisers and tirelessly took care of her. He moved them to an apartment building with an elevator so the nurses would be able to take her out during the day after he carried her up and down the stairs for years. Even though she was unable to do anything for herself he knew she would still want to look put together in the latest styles. He took her to the hair salon regularly to have her hair done because she always wanted to change to yet another different style. He would take her shopping and to have her nails done and would always make sure she was treated with the utmost care. Most of all, he stayed and made her laugh through all the pain where lesser men would have run away. She was a beautiful soul and I'm sure she knew how much we all loved her and prayed for a miracle cure.
Every time I b*tched about the stress in my life and about how much I hated my job I would think of Lisa and how she would love to be able to go to work again. When I sat on my a$$ instead of going to the gym I would think of Lisa and how much she would love to be able to go to the gym or just be able to walk into the next room. Whenever I had a bad day I would think of Lisa and how much she would appreciate having a day like mine.
May my dear friend Lisa rest in peace and may they find a cure for ALS so people don't have to suffer the way this brave woman did. Lisa was taken from us too soon but I'm happy she is free from the pain and finally at peace.
Lisa's Words to Live By:
May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens
Promise me that you'll give fate a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance
I hope you dance
- Leanne Womack
I hope you are dancing in heaven now my dear friend Lisa. I hope you dance.