The large conversion van pulled into its designated spot beside the church. Two women got out and in synchronized movements, they opened the large side doors and helped Randy’s specialized wheel chair to the ground.
I’ve watched this routine for several years now. Major Randy Hebert (A-Bear) returned from the Gulf War and began to experience muscle fatigue and failure. Later it was discovered he had ALS, attributable to his war experience. While his muscles wither from inactivity, his brain remains alert. Despite his only ability to communicate thru blinking, he has maintained a strong faith. “God doesn’t make mistakes,” he said before he lost his ability to speak. It is because of his strong faith and family that he perseveres, day after day, minute by minute sitting in a reclined wheel chair.
Yet because of his desire to encourage others, he produced “Randy’s Way,” his autobiography. His young family has stood by his side as he fights everyday to maintain his ability to breathe his next breath. His body is slowly dying while his brain continues to function.
I write about struggle to maintain life in the midst of death. For many of us, the struggle is heightened due to the death of a close relationship. The impact from a sudden loss is often traumatic and leaves us to question life’s purpose and meaning. Randy’s body is dying, moment by moment, but he is not fixated on dying. After twenty-five years, his attitude is, “I’m one of the lucky ones that has lasted this long.” He wrote, along with the assistance of Thomas P. Gill, “I choose to fight! Since I made the commitment to God and family I intend to win this race.”
He reminds of me of Paul, “…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” Hebrews 12:1-3. It appears that Randy is throwing off every encumbrance including his earthly body. He used to run fast but now he is running a different race, a marathon of sorts. Today he can only move his eyes but he keeps them firmly affixed to the prize so that one day he will hear the words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
These are also the words I want to hear, quickly followed by the words, “Hey Dad, Dad,” the same words I thought I heard six months after my son died. When I heard them the first time, they were just a foreshadowing of things to come. “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” I Cor 13:12. If Randy’s way is to keep his eyes on the prize, then what about us? It’s hard to find an excuse when I see a man like Randy with no excuses.
I love Soren Kierkegaard’s quote in the introduction to Randy’s Way, “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forward.” It seems that we spend a lot of time trying to understand life while it is whirling forward. Me, I like to know where I’m going but so oft I seem to get blindsided on the way. Maybe because I was looking backwards.
Randy’s book is an encouragement as he invites us, “So for just a little bit longer, won’t you lace up your shoes and run with me?” We use to run a 5k that he sponsored. His wife would push him while others including a formation of Marines would run the race with him. Today, he is still encouraging us to run with him. I hope that you take the time to check out his book on Amazon.com. I’m waiting for my copy to arrive and when it does, I know that for a time, I will focus not on death but on life. I too will be living forward. That’s Randy’s Way.
Don’t forget to go to Amazon.com and type in Randy’s Way or just cut and paste: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1985380005/ref=rdr_ext_tmb to get your copy.
Andy is a Clinical Psychologist who lost his son in a tragic motorcycle accident and now authors articles on bereavement. The quiz is available! Go to http://andymdavidson.com/Home/Pgd to find out if you may have Prolonged Grief Disorder. Look forward to his upcoming posts, and books. Follow him at his website, AndyMDavidson.com and Facebook.com/ThroughLifeandLoss to find out more about prolonged grief.