July 5th would have been Ron's 69th birthday and since he celebrated quite a few birthdays at Camp Winni over the years, I thought this might be a good time to share what our faith and walk was like during his two year illness and how God strengthened us every single day. Ron loved being at camp with all of you.
After several weeks of tests, Ron and I met with a neurologist in March, 2016. I can't begin to describe how it felt to hear the doctor give Ron the news that he had ALS. I felt the room closing in on us and then the Dr. left us alone. We slowly made it out to our car and then we sat there numb. We really didn't want to go home, so I called our pastor, Rev. Scott Nessel to see if he was available. He was at church and told us to come right over. We sat in his office and he said some very comforting things and prayed with us. Then he asked if he could be a part of our journey with the illness. We had his complete support during the next two years.
It was very hard to go home because in one afternoon our whole lives changed. That night I had to do one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. I had to call each of our four sons to tell them their father had ALS. The next night I called Ron's four siblings.
The following weeks were a blur. Ron had recently stopped working, but I was still teaching. I wanted to retire right away, but he convinced me to complete the school year, which I did. I retired in June and we were able to spend every day together. We began doing devotions together most mornings which we never seemed to find time for before. As hard as it was to think about what the future would hold, I knew it was in God's hands. He gave us both so much strength every day. Ron researched his condition regularly, but took time every afternoon to read his Bible.
We traveled to the Dominican Republic twice for stem cell procedures, and took many trips to Canada and several states to visit alternative doctors. Ron rarely complained and attended Camp Winni both years, even if it wasn't for the whole week. He loved his Camp Winni family.
As our family was preparing to participate in a local ALS walk to raise money for a cure, our sons were helping to design shirts for everyone to wear. We wanted Ron's input as to the wording on the shirts. We had recently visited Ruth Balinski before she passed away and then attended her funeral. During the eulogy her son said that her favorite Bible verse was "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13. Ron leaned over in church and whispered that that was what he wanted his shirt to say. It became "our verse" and was what we lived our lives by his last year.
We continued to go to doctors appointments, but we also went out to dinner, visited friends, and spent as much time as possible with our family. We continued to go to New Hampshire regularly to visit our son's family and two granddaughters. He was determined to attend every play they were in and all birthday parties. I am so thankful that we could spend every day together for those two years.
As his illness progressed it took its toll on both of us. Most mornings when I prayed I asked the Lord to give us strength just for that day. He always did and continued to do so till the end. When Ron's last day came I knew it as soon as I awoke and heard his breathing. He was awake and responsive. I asked him if I should call our sons and he said yes. While we waited I read psalms to him and prayed with him and asked Jesus to please be with him so he wouldn't be afraid. While sitting with him he looked alarmed and whispered "Who is here?" I told him that no one had arrived yet and we were alone. But he insisted that he could see someone next to him. I assured him it must be Jesus who came to be with him and then he relaxed and was at peace the rest of the day. Our whole family was together the remainder of the day and Ron didn't pass away till that evening. We talked, shared, prayed, and read to him. Psalm 23 was his favorite. Pastor Scott came and prayed with us and gave all of us communion, including Ron. We all agreed that he had the most peaceful passing and I knew in my heart that he wasn't alone. God was there for us each and every day. I have so much to be thankful for; my faith, the strength I was given which only comes from the Lord, my almost 45 years with Ron, my family, and friends and most importantly I know that when my husband walked through the valley of the shadow of death the Lord was with him and he did not go alone.