My grandfather passed away from ALS in January 2004.
Back then, I had never heard of ALS. In fact, we were originally told that he had Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and it wasn’t until later that I found out that ALS and Lou Gehrig’s Disease were the same disease.
Paw Paw, my grandfather, was a wonderful and kind man. He was quiet, unassuming, a giver.
Like I said in our Ice Bucket Video, if Paw Paw were still here, he’d find the whole thing silly, I’m sure. But he’d also be in the front row cheering me on. He liked being a part of things. If we had needed a bucket, he would have given us one of his. If he found out we needed ice for the challenge, he’d try to talk us into using ice from his freezer instead of using up our ice.
Whenever there was a canned food drive, Paw Paw donated. When Paw Paw found out that the family who lived across from him weren’t going to have a very good Christmas, he bought toys for their children. After Jason and I were married, we’d often come home to find a bag of vegetables from his garden hanging on our front door.
He gave quietly. He gave generously. He gave cheerfully.
He liked to build things. When a new gym was constructed at our school, he built the bleachers. And the score table and the concession stand and the ticket table. He made benches and seats for our dolls. And jewelry boxes and little Scotty dogs out of wood. He made Jason an airplane out of Dr. Pepper cans.
Lou Gehrig’s Disease took that away from him.
There are little things I miss. Like eating watermelon with him on the Fourth of July. Or watching a Braves baseball game with him. Or the tomatoes from his garden. The way he’d tilt back in his recliner when he’d laugh. The flowers he planted each spring for Granny. Standing beside him in church and listening to him jingle the change in his pocket. The worn Bible that sat on the little table beside his chair.
But mostly I just miss him.
Everyone needs someone who supports unconditionally, who encourages unwaveringly, who loves unendingly.
I had Paw Paw, forever in the front row of my life cheering me on…
Paw Paw may not have always agreed with me or how I chose to do something, but I always knew that I had his support and his love. He taught me a lot. I’m still learning from his quiet, steady example. Love without judgment. Give without prejudice.
On December 25, 2003, Jason had to work, so I took the kids that Christmas morning and went to see Paw Paw in the nursing home. I hugged him. And we visited for just a short little bit.
He passed away on January 3, 2004.
Jason and I have given to an ALS foundation. We will continue to do so.
Would Paw Paw have thought the ice bucket challenge silly? Yes. (But he also would have gotten a kick out of it.)
Could we have just continued to donate quietly without dumping ice water on our heads? Yes.
Our world is filled with a lot of bad, a lot of doom and gloom. Sad things. Things that make you weep. There are riots and wars and terrorists and lots of different people arguing and fighting about lots of different things.
And, for just a short little bit, people, from all walks of life, are coming together. They are having fun. And they are giving. They are laughing. And they are making a difference.
I’m not naïve enough to believe that everyone who is dumping a bucket of ice water is also donating, but, you know what? That’s okay! Just having fun and being silly is okay. And, if someone doesn’t want to take part, that’s fine too!
No one has to dump a bucket of ice on his or her head. We chose to do so, and we did it as a family. And it was fun.
Even in the midst of ugly, life is beautiful.
And, as a Christian who feels that every life is precious and has purpose and who does not support abortion, do I feel conflicted about supporting a foundation that researches embryonic stem cells? Yes, of course. I also feel conflicted about visiting Disney World, shopping at Target, or buying coffee from Starbucks because these corporations also support issues that I don’t necessarily support. Where is the line? I don’t know. And any way I try to draw a line, I feel somewhat hypocritical. I’m sure the line is different for different people and for different reasons. And I’m encouraged that there are some ALS research organizations that do not utilize embryonic stem cells in their research.
I also feel quite sure that, if I or someone I loved was diagnosed with ALS, we would want the latest treatment that would give us the best quality of life for the longest time possible. I’m pretty sure that most people would. If the latest and best treatment involved embryonic stem cells, would I reject the treatment? Honestly, I don’t know.
However, I’m absolutely fine with and respect people for choosing not to take part in this ALS Ice Bucket Challenge because they can’t support the main ALS foundation due to their research. What I don’t like is feeling judged for my choice to do so.
Why did I participate in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge? I dumped a bucket of ice water on my head in memory of my Paw Paw. I jumped at the chance, and I’d do it again. I wasn’t even thinking about how the organization we support conducts its research. I guess this is both my defense and my mea culpa.
There was a large bird cage at the nursing home where Paw Paw was. Whenever we visited, he liked for us to go in the room with the bird cage so our kids could watch the blue and yellow parakeets. I remember sitting there with Paw Paw while those little birds twittered and flew about their cage.
I’m told that a person with ALS feels like he is trapped within the cage of his body.
Maybe I am a bandwagon person. I’ll own that about myself. Why did I take part in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge? As silly as it is, I dumped ice water on my head in honor of my Paw Paw. And because it was fun.
Paw Paw would have laughed had he seen me.
I know, when I get to Heaven, I’m totally going to love everyone coming together to praise and sing and worship and, yes, laugh too.
My Paw Paw will be right there with me.