I communicate with a number of people by snail mail. I have always been a good letter writer. Some of my friends do not have computers and live simple unassuming lives. Sometimes I will mail them a copy of a blog. More often than not they get one of my cards with a hand written note. I have known some of the recipients of my cards since 1968. That is a long letter writing history.
I have known Joan since about 1980. Two years ago the love of her life died and two weeks later his faithful dog gave up..it was a double whammy for her. We talked on the phone ..lots..and she knows I hate the phone. She called the other evening.
That day started out just like any other..I headed to work. Sometimes something I see along the way will set the tone for the whole day…like some “you know what” in front of me poking along at 40 MPH. A fox in the field. Pretty clouds..you get the idea. It is 14 miles to town..so it takes me about 15 minutes..sometimes 20 minutes. As I entered town I notice the ambulance at the funeral home..someone died or some one called them for someone that was not yet dead. I have never seen an ambulance at the funeral home before..the hearse yes..but not an ambulance. I had an unsettled feeling all day long.
Far Guy woke me up from my Olympic watching after supper slumber..the phone was for me. I did not recognize the voice at first..it was somehow familiar and somehow strange. It was Joan. She said I have news for you “I have been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease, it has affected my speech.”
Could have knocked me over with a feather. She had just returned from a cruise in the Mediterranean. Here I was thinking that she was having a really good time and she did but as soon as she got home she started having muscle problems. ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease attacks your voluntary muscles. Your heart keeps beating etc..and your brain keeps working but you will have difficulty moving your arms and legs and swallowing and breathing..because even if those swallowing and breathing muscles are autonomic most of the time..they can be voluntary or somatic. ( You can breathe on purpose.)
The Doctors give her one to three years, much of which will depend on how fast the disease progresses. Everyone is different. The Neurologist says she needs a custom wheelchair and she has discussed her end of life wishes with all four of her Doctors. No ventilators and no feeding tubes. She recently sold her home and moved into an apartment..so that she could travel more. Now that traveling will be in a wheelchair. She was thinking of getting a dog, because she misses having a dog..but said “Now that is impossible, I cannot do that to a pet, who would take it when I die?”
What do you say to someone who is dying? I said “At least you know who is waiting for you.” “None of us know exactly when our time will come..you have some time to prepare” and “I will miss you.”
She has no children, but she has two sisters and a brother and a niece. She may move in with her niece..her niece has asked her to consider it. I encouraged her to give it some thought.
I guess when you get older your friends start kicking the bucket one after another. I am/was deeply saddened by the news from my friend:(
Now for the pretty picture.