By Molly Cruitt
Earlier this summer, I got married at the church I grew up in, three days after my grandmother’s 78th birthday. My grandmother wasn’t there.
It’s been almost a full decade since my grandma lost her battle with ALS plus dementia, and it’s easy to get lost thinking of all the things she’s missed and the moments that will continue to happen without her present.
She wasn’t there to see me walk down the aisle and marry my husband, who she never got the chance to meet. She wasn’t present in that same church where she sat, afflicted with ALS and barely able to walk, at my confirmation – or where she bustled around, excited and full of life, at my first communion many years earlier. She wasn’t there when we welcomed my nephew into the world. She won’t meet my children someday, and she didn’t know that I attended my dream school. I could dwell on wont’s and cant’s all day – but instead, as I celebrate a lot of exciting new changes in my life that she can’t and won’t see, I’m fighting back.
ALS robbed my grandma of her life at the age of 69 – but along the way, it robbed her of so much more. It took away her voice, her legs, and her personality. This once feisty woman who had more energy in her sixties than I have ever had a day in my life, the one who would eat anything – her favorite foods being chocolate covered popcorn and Guinness anything – was swiftly taken away. In her stead was a small, scared woman who couldn’t muster up the strength to eat and sometimes wasn’t sure who I was.
It wasn’t fair.
I don’t know why ALS chose our family. I don’t know why my grandma got so sick and passed away so quickly when she did – while I was applying for colleges, and while my sister was studying abroad. I can’t change what happened and I can’t bring my grandma back – but what I can do – what I will never stop doing – is use my voice to fight back every single day until there’s a cure.
When people ask me why I volunteer with the ALS Association, it’s not a difficult question to answer. I volunteer to give a voice to people whose voices have been violently ripped from them. I fight for a world where no one else has to watch her grandma disappear in front of her. I try my best to give to families who are suffering from ALS now the love and support my family received – whether that’s helping a person with ALS tell his story so his daughters have something to hold on to for the rest of their lives, or documenting the moments of joy and struggle with my camera. I still have a voice, and I know my gifts well – so it’s my joy, my responsibility, and my duty to use those gifts to make life a little easier for the voiceless and to fight unceasingly, today and every day, until we unlock a cure.
Molly Cruitt is a Walk to Defeat ALS® volunteer and member of the St. Louis Walk committee. She is a digital communications specialist in the St. Louis area and holds a Master of Arts from Saint Louis University and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Notre Dame.
You can learn more about how you can help unlock a cure for ALS at www.alsa-stl.org.