Friday, 28 November 2014

Al Hattingh Died Last Friday

There is nothing like a funeral to bring home the reality of ALS, of how this disease takes remorselessly. In a few hours I will go to Al Hattingh's funeral. He, like me, had ALS. He, as I will, died from complications associated with ALS; he died from ALS. He, like me, leaves behind four children who will miss him. He leaves behind grandchildren who will never really get to know him. He leaves behind a wife who will miss him dearly.

Al was diagnosed in December of 2013 and died on November 21, 2014. It was a quick progression although not outside the "bell curve". In the space of a few months he went from a healthy, robust, athletic man to a weakened shell of his former self, barely able to stand and ultimately unable to breath. He disappeared before our eyes, as we watched him in the ALS support group meetings. While his progression was quick, the path was familiar and the ending was what all of us with ALS must face sooner than we would like.

Looking at Al, I see a mirror for myself. I see my progression, albeit slower, relentless and cruel. I see the frustration and anger at the loss, his distress for his wife and children. I see the sadness within him, that he knew what this disease would do to him, that he could do nothing about it. I saw the difficulties for his daughter as she sought bravely to find something that would slow down this terrible affliction, something that would keep her Daddy with her longer, something that would allow him to be there when it was her turn to walk down the aisle. I see the grandchildren that will not remember him, the sons and daughters that will not be able to ask for his wisdom or counsel. I see myself reflected back.

I am going to fight to get up early, far earlier than normal. I did it on Monday, surely I can do it in a few hours. This will be a hard thing yet it is a thing I feel I must do. I am not going for Al. I am going for Janna, his daughter. She is one of the many young people I know. Over the last year we have talked a lot about her Dad. She has cried in my arms, ached for what she could not do. Now she must face the ultimate reality of the outcome of ALS. This will happen with my children too. They will have to face this day, coming sooner than they want, the disease progressing faster than we all hope.

It is not that death will take me, nor that it took Al. It is that death will come too soon, take us too early. It is that ALS will destroy our bodies along the way, leaving us with nothing at the end but an empty shell. It took Al. It will take me. It will take others. There is no treatment, no cure, no hope. That is the real tragedy, for both Al and ultimately for me too.

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