OUCH! I put my back out this morning. Three huge spasms within the space of ten minutes, and for no apparent reason. No sudden twists or turns. The first happened in the kitchen as I was making our morning cup of tea: I turned--quite slowly and without any unusual twist--from the counter to the sink, and then it hit. I screeched--loudly enough, I later learned, to awaken Ellie in the bedroom downstairs. The two aftershocks came within minutes, less powerful but painful nonetheless. I'm lying in bed now with my laptop, trying not to feel sorry for myself.
Nor should I. Having intended to get to bed early yesterday after a late night at the seder the night before, I made the mistake of tuning in to the first few minutes of Frontline's airing of So Much, So Fast and got hooked on the story of Stephen Heywood who suffered from ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease. And watched to the end.
What an incredible man... and what a marvelous family! Stephen's fight, after his diagnosis, against this terrible, debilitating affliction and his remarkable ability to maintain his will to live and his good cheer in the direst of circumstances were truly inspirational. His wife, who went along with his desire to have a child in the full knowledge that his chances for survival were virtually non-existent, seemed to share his persistent good humor and his determination, and we watched their child grow from crib to toddlerhood with much more delighted empathy than pity. His siblings, most prominently James, his older brother, rallied to his support and brought all their skills and resources to the formation of a foundation for the search for a cure for ALS.
It was painful enough to watch the slow, inexorable deterioration of this extraordinary man's body, while his mind remained alert and his appetite for life as keen as ever. It was a dreadful irony to learn that two years after the end of the filming of this extraordinary documentary he had finally succumbed--not to the disease itself, but to the accidental disconection of his oxygen supply during the night, while he was sleeping.
Stephen's patient, unselfpitying tolerance of years of relentless bodily decay sure puts my little bad back in perspective. How could I feel sorry for myself with this man in mind? I have learned from past experience that gentle exercise is a much faster route to recovery than immobility, so I plan to be up shortly and to take a walk around our hill--and to remind myself to keep moving through the day rather than get trapped into sitting for hours in front of my computer. Meantime, my thanks to Stephen and his family for the example of their courage and their loving devotion to each other.