Walk a Crooked Path: Help By the Bucketful

By Saundra Stewart

I am not a water lover – not in the slightest. I like to look at it, I like to drink it, and I like to take showers in it. But that’s about as far as my love for water goes. One time, when Don and I had taken a trip, we were relaxing in the motel pool. I accidentally stepped off into the deep end, and I seriously thought I was going to drown! All Don had to do was reach out his hand (we were actually that close together) and I was instantly rescued. My hero!

So, when I heard about something called “The Ice Bucket Challenge”, I wasn’t interested. Have I said that I don’t like water? Well, that goes double for ice cold water. Don, on the other hand was immediately up for the game. He was already wearing the c-pap most of the time, and breathing was a labor. But he wanted to help raise money. In fact, he was dead set on it!

As a family, we had a job ahead of us. We had to talk Don out of taking part in this insane challenge to raise money for ALS research. Sure, it was personal for him. But he was too compromised. So, as a family, we began to take the challenge. We were stepping up to the plate. Doing the thing Don so very much wanted to do for himself.

One of our nephews is a police officer. He wanted to take the challenge.  So I formulated a plan. I was totally embarrassed not to take the challenge, since Don was so willing but couldn’t do it. So I invited Chris to come to the house to take the challenge, and I would take it at the same time. I knew he had gone through some life-saving training. That way, if I nearly died, it would be Chris to the rescue! We set the date and took the challenge. Chris did fine. I, on the other hand, sucked in some water, got choked and thought I was doing to die! But that’s a story for another day!

It wasn’t long until our children, our grandchildren, lots of family members and friends were also taking the challenge in honor of Don. Our Pastor, fellow church members, people we hardly knew. They were all honoring Don. Every time I would open my Facebook page, it would be full of pictures or videos people had sent of their taking the Ice Bucket Challenge. Don couldn’t do it himself, but he was inspiring lots and lots of others to get all wet.

Every now and again Don would bring up that he thought he could (and should) take the challenge. It was a job to continually be talking him out of dousing himself in ice water. One evening, though, we were sitting here at home when he came up with another idea. He was so appreciative of what he felt the Ice Bucket Challenge was going to raise money to accomplish. So grateful for what friends and family were doing to show their respect and honor for him. He could do something, and he was going to push himself to get it done. He wanted to make a “thank you” video and have me post it to Facebook to thank all those who had so kindly thought of him during this challenge. 

It was too much of an ordeal to dress him up, so he made his video in his pajamas. We hoped no one would care. Little by little. Word by word.  Sentence by sentence. He gasped and hoarsely expressed his thanks to all who had participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge. Again, every time I would open Facebook or go to my email, I had messages from friends and family acknowledging what a privilege it was to honor Don in this fun way.

Don didn’t get to live long enough to see all that resulted from the Ice Bucket Challenge. It would please him to know that the rewards are still coming. He was convinced that a treatment and sure-fire method of diagnosis were forthcoming. He knew he played a small part in helping that come to fruition. I don’t know how much Don and those that supported him raised for the cause. But I’m certain they raised enough to help.

What about you? Did you help? It’s never too late, you know. It could be your dollar that would be the one needed to find the last piece to the puzzle. It’s even worth getting all wet!


Today’s blog post is part of a recurring monthly series from our good friend Saundra Stewart. When her husband, Don, was diagnosed with ALS, Saundra became his full-time caregiver for over 10 years. In her series, “Walk a Crooked Path”, Saundra shares her insights on ALS as a caregiver.

For more information on resources available to caregivers of loved ones with ALS, please visit www.alsa-stl.org.

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