Monday, December 12, 2011

Lou Gehrig's Disease? ... but you don't even like baseball!

I just watched a most beautiful sunrise. It was as special and miraculous as it was commonplace and routine. I live in Orillia, Ontario and get to watch the sun rise and set over Lakes Couchiching and Simcoe, and these daily events truly are as beautiful here as anywhere in the world. Each time I stop to soak in such solar splendour I remind myself that I never know when it may be my last.

This morning's sunrise was the first without my "Uncle" David Grant in the world. Actually my Mom's first cousin, David was one of those favourite relatives that everyone adored and enjoyed. Hysterically funny, smart and caring, he lived fully for his three score years and ten (plus one).

I won't go too much into history, relationship, eulogy, as there is one very specific point to this post. But, for background, I met The Grants in about 1985, when they moved to Barrie. Our families became very close over the next quarter century, and I developed strong friendships with all 4 of David's kids. Around two years ago, David was diagnosed with ALS - Lou Gehrig's disease. His was a very advanced, rapidly progressing case and none of us expected to get as much extra time with him as we eventually got. His last couple of years truly were a celebration. Parties and events and dinners and friends and family - no one has ever had a better time at their own living wake than David.

All that said, ALS is a scary disease. It robs you bit by bit of all of your physical function and leaves you fully aware, trapped inside a once vital - but now frustratingly useless - body. For all that he was a proud man, David handled this with grace and dignity. Still, he was honest about his fears of an extended death - he was terrified of suffocating, "causing" suffering not just for himself but for his family as well.

This marvelous book was written by David's great friend Marcel Lamoureux.
It was presented to David a year and a half ago, allowing him to enjoy it while he
was alive. Such an amazing tribute! Click on the picture to see the actual book online.

Ultimately, David's departure was storybook perfect. Yesterday morning, having laughed over breakfast with his wife and three daughters, David said he felt he needed to lay down for a nap. He was helped into his bed and closed his eyes. Sensing that this nap was different, they all gathered around David and were with him as he very peacefully passed.

I delivered a huge pot of soup last night and got to visit with my cousins and their gathering families (some are still en route). Everyone looked tired but good. While there was obvious grieving going on, there were more laughs than tears as David's spirit - already such a powerful, positive force in the family - permanently established itself as his magnificent legacy.

David and his prodigious progeny.

Now to the lesson I learned yesterday. As we were discussing how "perfect" David's passing was, one of his daughters said this.
"Mom said that she wished Dad had just been able to know that this was how it was going to go, because it would have saved him so much worry."
I have thought a lot about that since I got home from my visit. How many things do we worry about, that never turn out to be as bad as we had feared. Even when they do turn out worst case, how much time/energy/joy did we squander worrying about something over which we had no control?

David knew his time was short and he squeezed out everything that he could. Well, I have news for you. Your time left is very short. So is mine. Whether it is another year, twenty years or sixty years, it is (as one of my favourite, albeit less than genteel sayings goes) just a fart in a fan factory. It will be gone before you know it. You may be blessed with a "two minute warning" like David's, or you may be hit by a bus. Either way, you too shall pass, and the world will continue on without you.

So, watch the sun rise. Watch it set. Enjoy the harvest moon. Spend time with friends and family. Do the things you enjoy, and try new ones all the time. When your time comes to go, you will go. I am grateful that David, through his amazing family, taught me one last valuable lesson even after he was gone. "Don't worry. Be happy."


  1. I will take time tonight to walk the trails behind my tree fort and think happy thoughts and smell the earth and feel the cold and hear the coyotes...thanks for the reminder...

  2. Another AWESOME post Johnny Hollywood!


  3. what a beautiful tribute, Johnny. So sorry for your loss, the rest of his family and friends' loss and the world's loss. It is always so sad when a beautiful person leaves this world. Thank you for sharing. <3