My Dad & ALS | 52 Weeks of Gratitude

My dad has ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). He was diagnosed almost 2 years ago. If you don't know what ALS is, it's a terminal neurodegenerative disease that affects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement. It eventually leaves a person paralyzed and unable to breathe on their own. 

It probably seems weird for me to say I'm thankful for such a terrible disease, but it's not the disease itself for which I'm thankful. It's the lessons that it has taught me.  

I was a daddy's girl up until I hit my teenage years. We butt heads A LOT during those years (everyone says because we're so much alike) and our relationship left much to be desired. Then I moved away for college leaving things as they were. As his health started declining, we lost several close family members, which taught me how much I should truly cherish my loved ones. I moved back home to be closer to my family and help out. 

That was before my dad was diagnosed, when we had no idea how serious his condition was. Now, I'm one of his primary caretakers, along with my mother. The opportunity to take care of my father full-time could be seen as a burden, but I choose to look at it as a blessing. The time I get to spend with my dad is something that can never be replaced, and it has brought us much closer than we were before I moved home. I know that regardless of the sacrifices I have to make to take care of him, I will never regret my decision to do so. 

I am not sure that I could list all the things I've learned (and am still learning) through this process, but these are a few that stand out the most at the moment.  

We take small things for granted, and we shouldn't. I'm talking about things as simple as brushing your own teeth. Things we don't even think about because they're just so normal they don't seem very relevant. It's easy to thank God for new jobs, new cars, and material things. However, when you watch someone lose their ability to be independent day-by-day, it really stresses how important these seemingly small things are. Before this, I never considered that there are people who wake up realizing they can no longer feed or dress themselves. I'm sure my dad would give almost anything to be able to do those things for himself again. 


Life itself is a miracle. I'm sure we've all heard "tomorrow is not promised" time and time again, but how many of us can really say that we live every day like we might not wake up tomorrow? I am certain most people don't, including myself. At least, I didn't before this experience. It wasn't until death visited my family multiple times that I truly started to recognize how fragile life is and how quickly it can be taken away. Elements of my father's life slip away on a regular basis. It not only makes me grateful for each day he's still living and able to laugh & talk with me, but it also makes me grateful for each day I am given to wake up - especially with my health and abilities.  

Love is not always pretty or easy, but it is always a choice. The world likes to portray love as this perfect, sweet feeling that just yields constant happiness. If something doesn't always make you happy or feel good, it's not really worth it, right? Wrong. Now, I can't say that I ever believed that lie, but I know I did not realize how hard truly loving someone can be either. Love is much more than a feeling, it's actions. It's charity. This is easily one of the most challenging situations I've ever faced. I believe it's worth it though. 




My best example of love's ability to look like an ugly, painful choice would be Jesus choosing to die on the cross for his love for the world. I cannot truly claim to be Christian if I'm not willing to try to love like God loves me. I love people so much differently now. I'm less likely to get hung up on petty issues. I would rather cherish who I have, while I have them. And I would encourage you to do the same. Don't let tragic circumstances teach you that. 

Thanks for reading & following along as I try to become a more grateful person. I hope each post isn't this hard to write, but I am certain that my readers will get to know me a lot better by the time this is over. 

Is there anything you're grateful for that may seem unusual? 




18 comments:

  1. My patients suffer from Dementia and Alzheimer's disease. I see what they go through on a regular basis. They go back to being babies in diapers. So, believe me when I tell you that I understand what you are going through. My daughter suffers from Myasthenia Gravis, a condition where her eyes droop, especially the left one. The eye muscle becomes weak to the point where the eye has to stay closed. She is currently on steroid, and she is only five years old. I am grateful to God for blessing me with such a strong daughter and a wonderful neurologist. Sometimes we don't understand why God does the things he does, but all I know is that we should never question him. "He makes everything work together for our good."

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    1. I agree with you, Nerline. All for our good. I know what you mean about having a good neurologist, too. It really makes a difference. Thanks for sharing that with me!

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  2. Thanks for sharing with us. I am grateful that God allowed me 16 years with my best friend and even though cancer took her at an early age, the memories and life experience I shared with her as made me a better person and she lives on through me.

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    1. The experience of going through illness really is life changing. I'm glad that you are changed for the better from it. Thanks for commenting!

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  3. Oh this post really touched me!

    It's sad that most of us don't actually appreciate the things we have, like general health. What you are doing for your Dad is a act of selfless love, there is no greater gift, than spending time with loved ones.

    Thanks for this post I really do like this statement ' If something doesn't always make you happy or feel good, it's not really worth it' time and time again as soon as things get uncomfortable we give up, this just put it all back in the right frame for me.

    It was great to get to know more about you, and to meet your Dad!

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    1. Aww! :) Thank you, Yvonne!! Spending time with family truly is priceless.

      I am glad you were able to get something from it. It's so true about how easily we give up when things get uncomfy these days.

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  4. Hi Melanie! I'm certain dad cherishes all that you and mom do for him. I know someone with ALS. Actually, he's my husband's coworker...the coworker is of course no longer working but we've seen how aggressive ALS can be. Love on your dad...love goes a long way. I pray for continued health and strength for all of you. (((hugs))) Thanks for sharing your story...you're a brave young lady.

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    1. Thank you, Diva!! For ALS to be so rare, it seems that whenever I share about my dad that there's someone who knows someone with it, too. I appreciate the prayers :)

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  5. I just can't put grateful in the same sentence with cancer BUT my husband's cancer brought us closer together. We were already close but it brought us just that much more closer AND it taught us not to sweat the small stuff b/c there is always something larger out there that really requires worry....day to day issues are not it!

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    1. I understand what you mean. I'm glad you two came out on the other side of cancer closer than before. Yes, small stuff is almost laughable now. Thanks for sharing that with me!

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  6. This was such a beautiful post! Only today i talked about why i'm thankful. We often take things for granted until it reaches a crisis point. I'm so happy you rekindled your relationship and can be there for him. May God bless you both.

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    1. Thank you much, Tomes! I agree - it's a shame it has to happen that way sometimes.

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  7. This brought tears to my eyes thank you for sharing! God bless you all!

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    1. It's humbling to know that my sharing resonates with other this way, Lydz. Thank you for reading!

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  8. It wasn't nails that held Him to the cross---it was LOVE.

    Ain't it funny how our world wants us to believe that if it ain't about us, then it ain't worth it? You really can't get ANY further away from the truth because real love has everything to do with the people around us and nothing to do with just us. Real love isn't easy nor is it supposed to be easy. It requires sacrifice and selflessness.

    I adore your positive, grateful, and humble perspective on your life as your father's rock. And I'm certain that his heart oozes with pride at the woman that you've become.

    Thanks for sharing doll!

    KLP @ SavingOurStrands

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    1. Yesss, it was love! I love and share your sentiments exact, KLP. Thank you for your kind words!

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  9. My heart goes out to you and your family, Melanie. I think we can all learn something from you--I am certainly inspired after reading this. Thank you for sharing your story.

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