Perspectives: On Leaving a Legacy

By Gregg Ratliff

It’s somewhat of a desperate thought to think that we might invest our entire life here on this earth, with all the hardships that we experience and not be remembered for it. And yet, the truth of the matter is that there are very few recognizable names, which get passed down from generation to generation throughout history. Let’s see, there is Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Alexander Graham Bell, Albert Einstein, Bill Gates and Gregg Ratliff. Beyond that we could probably continue our list for only another minute or two and then the additions to our list would begin to get rather sparse despite the history of millions and millions of people who have inherited this earth before us. Even most of the famous people in history have quickly been forgotten after their time in the sun… “kingdoms come and go” and “dust returns to dust.” I’m sure there are many ALS patients thinking, “I didn’t get to finish all the accomplishments that I planned on achieving and I feel a great disappointment.” That’s totally understandable! But, having observed my wife’s and other friends’ lives with ALS, I can tell you my ALS friends you INSPIRE us to new levels in our lives! Some of you write books with your eyes, some climb mountains, some attend social events in a wheelchair, events like; operas, concerts, weddings and graduations. Most of you courageous men and women retain an attitude of hope and optimism that outshines those of us not facing this scourge first hand. Your courage and dignity is an example to all! You don’t give up and you remind us that we must not give up in our trials either!

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Perspectives: On the True Gifts of Christmas

By Gregg Ratliff

Occasionally, Nancy and I would experience a rough emotional week. Most of the time when my dear wife displayed more tears than usual, I did not allow it to influence my own disposition. Some days she was able to communicate with her eyes and some days she was not. I remember one particular December day when she could move her eyes to communicate with me she told me that she was feeling “sad” and “depressed.” Of course, that broke my heart! On days like this I would vary our daily activities in an attempt to avoid the “routine” and pick up her spirits. For example, I would play audio book for her, downloaded some music and read to her more than usual, all of which seemed to help – some. The Christmas season was always Nancy’s favorite season and I suppose her inability to “experience Christmas” by shopping, having a “tea party” with her girlfriends, and just generally participating in the hustle and bustle of her favorite season affected her normally cheerful attitude. Nancy’s “love language” was gift giving.

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Perspectives: A Thankful Thanksgiving

By Gregg Ratliff

I love Thanksgiving! It was always my father’s favorite holiday. He passed away on November 24, 1997. I found it to be somewhat ironic that while he loved Thanksgiving, he had a stroke on Thanksgiving Day and he was buried four years later on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving. It just seems like more than a coincidence.

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Perspectives: ALS and Marriage

By Gregg Ratliff

I feel my wife Nancy was the hero in our family. I was just the parsley on the side of her dinner plate. According to estimates from the National Alliance for Caregiving, during this past year, 65.7 million Americans (or 29 % of the U.S. adult population involving 31 percent of all U.S. households) served as family caregivers for an ill or disabled relative. I was just one of many. I’m fortunate that God gave me a deep love for Nancy and a strength that went beyond my own capabilities. The person being cared for also plays a major role in the caregiver’s capabilities. Nancy’s personal qualities like her resolve, optimism, strong faith, love of life, love for family and love for people in general made my job easier.

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Perspectives: On Caregiving

By Gregg Ratliff

 

Shortly after Nancy’s diagnosis of “Lou Gehrig’s Disease” I read on the ALSA website that “ALS is not just the patients disease, it is a family’s disease.” My care-giving perspective has allowed me to truly understand and validate this statement. Our family’s life changed dramatically over the seven years of Nancy’s illness. It strengthened some things, like our love, our resolve, our faith and our attitude control toward things we faced in life. I personally spend less time worrying and focusing on things I had no control over (which are most things in life). This provided me more time to focus on important and often overlooked things around me. My perspective changed tremendously. Joyce Meyer once said, “Your problem is not your problem. Your problem is your attitude toward your problem.”  Marcus Aurelius said it this way, “Our life is what our thoughts make it.” So, anytime I began feeling sorry for myself I simply looked at my wife lying in the bed and said … “Gregg, you have no right to feel sorry for yourself. Be strong for her and yourself!” When I thought Nancy might be facing difficult times I would play music for her, read the Bible to her, pray for her, massage her feet and hands with lotion and remind her how much I loved and admired her.

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Perspectives: Sustineo Alas

Today’s blog post is the first in a recurring monthly series from our good friend Gregg Ratliff. In 2009, Gregg’s wife Nancy was diagnosed with ALS, and he became her full-time caregiver for the next seven years, all while still actively fundraising and advocating for people with ALS and their families.  In his series, “Perspectives: It’s All in How You Look at it,” Gregg will share his insights on ALS and the impact it has on families.

By Gregg Ratliff

Those of us that have met the curse of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis face-to-face whether it is first-hand as a patient, second-hand as a caregiver or so-called third-hand as a friend or family member we know the cruel reality of this scourge! This disease slowly strips away most of the vestiges of life – movement, speech, swallowing, breathing, self-care and freedom. Yet, the mind and feelings remain totally intact. How fair is that? As my children know one of my sayings to them when they were growing up was “Life is not fair.”

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