One of my earliest heroes was Lou Gehrig. Not because I remember him playing baseball (he died 14 years before I was born) but because as a kid in love with baseball, I read a book about him. What a great ball player. What a sad ending to his life.
Years later I met Larry Ward. I recruited Larry to serve one of my churches in the Central District. He was a very good pastor and greatly loved in that church. We got along real well also because he and I shared a love of the outdoors and endurance events. He once hiked the Pacific Crest Trail from California to Washington (over 400 miles). He climbed Mt. Hood frequently and I regret I turned him down the time he invited me to join him. I regret that especially because that was the last mountain he climbed. Shortly after that he was diagnosed with ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease. I was there for his final Sunday in the church he had served. We served communion together that day, but this strong man, a model of fitness, was no longer strong enough to hold a plate with bread on it. Larry died January 20, 2011.
Then I met another Larry. Larry Brown. I was privileged to be Larry’s pastor during his long gradual decline due to ALS. He was a brave man. His wife Mary Ann was an angel. It was heartbreaking that there was nothing that could be done to reverse the onslaught of this terrible disease. Larry died on December 11 of last year. We held his funeral in our church.
Those are my three personal connections to ALS. I’ve been thinking about these three great men as the “ice bucket challenge” has gone viral. They raised over $100 million in the month of August alone (this is about 100 times the rate of their typical donations). Good for them! All that money is going to a very good cause. Fighting killer diseases is truly the Lord’s work, because our Lord’s heart is broken each time one of his children suffers.
Even if you are one of those suffering from “ice bucket challenge” overload, you really do need to see the attached video. It tells the story of another baseball player, Pete Frates, and how this whole cultural phenomenon started with him.
PS Pete Frates and his wife Julie are now the proud parents of a little girl, Lucy Fitzgerald Frates, born August 31. 2014.