The month of May is designated for ALS awareness. Many sufferers of this disease, their families and friends travel to our nation’s capital to advocate for research funding among other needs. I have made the journey several times since being on the ventilator; I cannot fathom how difficult this trip is on heroes without artificial respiration. Not speaking in regards of myself because my experience has been a rare exception, ALS has to be the cruelest disease in existence. During the decline to quadriplegia there are countless degrading episodes where one can either cry or laugh, I’d rather laugh. Wallowing in self pity or taking life too serious when it isn’t necessary waste precious time when you could be laughing.
Yesterday I was researching previous property owners of our home place. I clicked on a Google suggestion and it was an obituary for the year 2001. Reading obits are some people’s thing, but not mine. I was stunned the number of young and middle aged deaths equaled the number deaths of individuals living a long life. It enhanced my appreciation for each swing of the hour hand.
There were many educators that wished I would have taken their class more serious. Classrooms and funerals have always seemed in need of humor to me. Will Katz and I postponed our foreign language requirement at Georgia as long as we could. Espanol was the chosen tongue. In Spanish 102 we had a Cuban professor. I actually thought I was behaving in his class because I did not want to be called on to answer, but briefly into the quarter when I would cross the classroom threshold he would greet me with, “Ah! Dahveeeeeeed, the special one.” He and Raul Fernandez, my high school Spanish teacher, would have been shocked and maybe a little proud that a year after UGA I directed a taxi driver late at night from San Jose to a house miles away in the mountains of Costa Rica. This was after muchas cervezas frías.
Eighteen months after taking my Mom to a promised college graduation, which happened to be mine, I began experiencing ALS symptoms. Two years and a few months after the onset of symptoms I was diagnosed. It took a little more time before I could laugh about the ramifications of the diagnosis.
It was early September, hot and humid. I was in my garage attempting to walk in full leg braces when I lost one of many gravity battles. Seconds later the UPS guy enters the garage with a package and I swear he asked, “Ya fall down?” Already perturbed with the heat and the fact I had conked my melon pretty hard I said, “Nah, I was so hot I wanted to curl up on this cool concrete.” He either believed me or didn’t take kindly to my response, but he left me piled there on the floor. Where is Bill Engvall when you need him? Here’s your sign!
I couldn’t have survived the last quarter century without finding humor in the worst situations. Besides, if you are unable to laugh at yourself that is a huge red flag your shirt is too stiff and wasting good times. Our time on this cosmic dust ball is a blink. A quote I have always loved and tried to live by in my adult years is attributed Ralph Waldo Emerson:
“To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded”
Have a great day! dj