Mesa Musings: Today stands on its own

May 26, 2010|Jim Carnett

A decade ago I met a young man who, like me, was a volunteer at a weeklong church camp for kids.

The father of several youngsters was extremely courageous.

One morning he told me almost matter-of-factly that he'd recently been diagnosed with ALS. I was somewhat familiar with the disease because I'd long been a fan of the heroic story of baseball legend Lou Gehrig. Though the young man didn't say as much, I knew that his diagnosis was a death sentence.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), is a progressive, neurodegenerative disease that attacks nerve cells and pathways in the brain and spinal cord. It has no known cure.


The disease usually progresses rapidly, and death can occur within three to five years of diagnosis. About 20% of patients survive more than five years, and 10% live beyond eight.

For my friend, it's now been 10 years. My wife and I switched churches several years after the summer camp, and I lost track of him. I hope he's beaten the odds.

He's been on my mind lately.

When we first met, I felt deep sympathy toward him. I must also confess to having felt guilt. How tragic, I thought, for a young man — not yet 40 — with young children, to have to deal with such a hopeless diagnosis. Why was he dying while I was blessed with good health?

I've learned that many of life's questions lack easy answers.

Amazingly, he told me that he was at peace with his circumstance. Silently, I compared the depth of his faith to mine. Like Gehrig, this young man was operating in the big leagues. By contrast, I was bumbling my way about some sandlot.

Five years after our encounter, I began to suspect that I had Parkinson's. My father had the disease, and I was familiar with its symptoms.

I wasn't caught by surprise a year later when my neurologist confirmed my suspicion. I'd presumed for many months that Parkinson's lurked in the recesses of my brain.

One of my first thoughts after my diagnosis was of my brave young friend with ALS. How, I wondered, was he doing? I suddenly felt connected to him.

I wasn't bitter. Unlike my friend, I was no longer a young man. I'd been permitted to see my four children grow up and was a grandfather several times over. I had no complaints. Most importantly, I knew God hadn't abandoned me.

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