I was forced to do some serious thinking yesterday. I had found out an old friend from high school had passed away on April 20th. When I say "Old Friend" I mean that we were friends in high school and that was the last time I had spoken to her until March of this year.
I saw her name on some goofy Facebook app and sent her a message. I do this often. I've reconnected with many people from my past. Family, friends, some closer than others. Nothing amazing, just your typical updates. Jobs, kids, spouses, ex-spouses and a vast variety of pets.
This reconnection was different. My friend, Denise, was dying from ALS.
I know all too well what ALS is. It's a disease in the same family of what I have, Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). ALS is a bastard. It sneaks up on people. People that, previously, were perfectly healthy people. ALS is cruel. ALS takes all your muscles and basically destroys them. The really cruel part of ALS is that while your body is being destroyed, your mind remains intact. You become a prisoner inside your own body.
If you know me you know I can be a bit of a smart ass. I love life and I try to be as positive as possible. When I found out Denise was in the later stages of ALS, I knew my standard, "How are you doing?", greeting would be terrible to ask.
Having SMA and being involved with the Muscular Dystrophy Association all my life death and dying are always around. I had a brother, Todd, who died when I was very young. You get used to death. I know that may sound weird, but its true. I've lost count of how many friends I've known to pass away. Some were closer than others.
Hearing that Denise had died hit me hard. I couldn't explain why. I was sitting here in tears because a person I truly hardly knew had died. It didn't make sense to me. So I did what I do best. I thought about it. I Facebooked about it. I prayed and talked to God about it, and now, I'm blogging about it.
Denise had sent me 11 emails since we reconnected. She had a computer setup that allowed her to control her environment with her eyes and her computer. In one email she called me her hero. That floored me. I mean, I know I wear tights and have a long flowing cape, but I would never consider myself to be a hero. I can't dunk a basketball, I've never scored a game winning touchdown or hit a walk-off home run. I've never rescued a cat from a boarded up house or chased down a purse snatcher. How am I, an over weight, unemployed, always flirting with bankruptcy man in a wheelchair a hero?
This is what I came up with. A hero can be anyone for anyone for anything. A hero is someone that helps a person get over a hump. Denise felt all the feelings you could imagine of a person with ALS. She had been dealing with them since 2005. When she heard about the details of my SMA that I have had since birth, she felt, I believe, relieved that her life could have been worse. Maybe I helped her see her pre-ALS life with a clearer focus. If that is what I did, then I can accept that.
Many of my Facebook friends have offered me some very kind words to me. I thank all of you. I don't live my life to make impressions on others. I am humbled that I have touched even one person.
(Though I'm sure that case in Kentucky will be settled out of court.)
Godspeed Denise. Thank you.