Family is what is most important in the world. It is the glue that holds us all together. My grandfather’s disease helped my family to realize that being together and supporting one another is the most important thing any of us could do.
My grandfather was diagnosed with a terminal illness–Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, at the age of 50. He was told he had five years to live at the most. ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects the neurons in the brain and spinal cord. It eventually leads to total paralysis and death. This news had devastated my family, almost as much as when my dad was shipped off to fight in the Vietnam War. Although I would not be born for almost 20 more years, I do know that what my grandfather went through brought not only our family together, but most of the city he lived in as well.
My grandparents had never-ending support from immediate and extended family as well as many friends and neighbors. Everyone who knew my grandfather would admit that he had many flaws; he could be mean and arrogant sometimes, but he could also be generous and kind. Although my grandfather was given 5 years to live, he defied the odds and went on to live for 29 more years. My sister once told me that it was such a blessing that both of us were able to be with our grandfather (she was born the year that he was diagnosed and would not have remembered him if he had died). Mostly everyone in the city of Muskegon, Michigan knew of Backus “Turk” Nehra, or had met him personally. Whenever I would visit my grandparents there would always be friends coming in and out of the house to just say hello, or to sit and have a long chat.
My grandmother was also a saint when it came to my grandfather’s disease. When my grandfather began to lose almost all of the control of his muscles, my grandma was always there. She fed him, bathed him, and put him to bed at night, things that people take for granted everyday.
My grandpa died in February 2003 at the age of 79. Even though my grandpa had to live life with a horrible illness, it helped my family to grow and to realize that everything happens for a reason. My grandpa’s disease allowed my family to find what is truly important in the world, to us that is choosing to be together and agreeing that family always comes first.
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