Life, Death, and Whack-A-Mole
When we moved away to college, we were about eleven hours away from home, and living in a much larger city, Spokane. One of the best things about that part of my life was that my aunt and her family also lived in Spokane. Over the course of those years, we grew close, but as often happens when you move away, the distance created a different distance. The occasional phone calls reconnected us and we were fortunate that she came out and visited us a few years ago.
One of the hardest calls I made was calling to tell her about my diagnosis. She took it as hard as anyone. I know that I was in her daily prayers. Family is family. This past week she passed away, the last of that generation of my family. I felt it was important to attend the funeral as she was important in my life. Family is family.
For the first time in fifteen years, I flew solo. And like Lindbergh crossing the Atlantic, it took substantial effort. I had to negotiate my addled body (and my carry-on) through O'Hare, TSA security, and a connection in Minneapolis, simply to get to Spokane. In the words of Tennessee Williams (via Blanche DuBois) I had to depend on the kindness of strangers. I could not lift or retrieve my bag and for me it is much easier to help than to ask for help. But it was good to eat humble pie because the only snack on the plane was a cookie that the Keebler elves rejected.
My brother, coming from Denver, arrived in Spokane at the same time as my flight and his travel package included a car and hotel. He offered to do the driving and share his room. I of course accepted as A. I limit my driving and B. I am cheap.
We met up with our cousins and in compliance with the universal coping tradition, we went out to eat. We shared hugs and stories and most importantly, memories. It was good to share this weekend with them and to be a part of the funeral Mass.
But there was an added dimension for me; this was the first funeral that I have attended since being diagnosed with ALS. The funeral made the reality of my diagnosis more real, though that seems hardly possible; for I contemplate my passing every day. Each movement that fails, each inability to do menial tasks, is a foreshadowing signal that my body is tiring of the battle. My disease is progressing and though I know it and deal with it, in some ways I ignore it.
The reality of my condition is like Whack-A-Mole; bad signals pop up, that I in turn, beat down. I know they are there, I know more are coming and I know they are coming faster, but as long as there is still time on the clock, the game continues. In essence, like you, I have been ignoring the clock assuming that sufficient time remains. Attending my aunt's funeral has brought the reality of the clock countdown back into focus. Sometimes reality is a female dog.
So what is my conclusion? The best answer is that the game continues and time remains on the clock, but I must remain cognizant that it is winding down. Knowing and understanding that leads me to only one conclusion: I remain, truly blessed.
Jim is am an attorney and graduate of Gonzaga University and Marquette Law School. He lives in Spring Prairie near Burlington. He has been in private practice for 17 years. He is in the process of closing his practice due to a diagnosis of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). He his married with 6 kids. Jim is a community blogger and is not a part of the Gazette staff. His opinion is not necessarily that of the Gazette staff or management.