Living with ALS: Appreciating the many contrasts of life
CHARLOTTE, NC: For some odd reason many travel writers have a favorite expression: “Land of contrasts.” No matter where they go or what they see, each new destination is a “land of contrasts.” The truth is, if you think about it, that it’s a phrase which can be applied to just about any place in the world.
That being the case, it aroused my curiosity as to whether “contrasts” might be true for almost anything.
After the doctor gave me the news about ALS with her haunting pronouncement “There is no cure,” the logical, and standard question was “How long do I have?”
“Two to five years,” she replied.
I have no idea how other people respond, but my feeling, given my age, was actually “That’s not too bad, it could have been worse.”
The blessings of a life well lived
As someone who has been blessed with good health all my life, I naturally had expectations of being productive for many more years, but all things considered, ALS occurring in the twilight of my life was, in its own ironic way, a gift.
Subconsciously everyone knows that one day life will end for them, but most of go about our daily routines living as though we are immortal. Death is not something that healthy people dwell upon.
In many ways, ALS is the same. Debilitating as it is, ALS is not a condition of illness where its targets are sickly or have feelings of being consistently in poor health. Other than my inability to do many things that I once took for granted, physically I don’t feel any different than before.
Consequently, a visit from the ferryman usually seems as remote to me as to anyone else.
That said, therein lie the contrasts.
When Thanksgiving or Christmas rolls around, I instinctively wonder if one or the other will be my last. I worry that I have not let everyone know how much I love them. How much I appreciate their care and support because I am always keenly aware that I have infringed upon their lives no matter how unintentionally it may have been.
I remember sending birthday wishes to a friend last fall and saying that I didn’t know whether I would be here to say “Happy Birthday” the next time. Subconscious contrasts.
In an odd way, ALS has given me time to savor the life that perpetually surrounds me in ways I never did before. As a writer, I have always tried to notice the subtle rhythms of life, yet somehow, this is different…stronger and more powerful.
I am more aware of the beauty that co-exists with suffering
The sweetness of life. Sunrises and sunsets. The warmth of summer sunshine washing over me. The distant laughter of children at play. Lonesome train whistles in the night. The sweet sounds of invisible birds chirping in the trees. The crunch of the first intrusions on virgin snow.
Those sights and sounds were always there but I was too busy to notice. Now my awareness is more intense. If nothing else it’s an incentive not to yield to my doctor’s ALS prediction.
You see there is even joy in sadness. It’s a paradox to be sure. A contrast.
If nothing else, my journey with ALS has enriched my appreciation for the simple joys of life. Sweet, sweet contrasts.
About the Author:
Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor is an award-winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
Editors Note: Support Bob’s GoFundMe to give him a hand up