Can you imagine not being able to move? Not being able to speak? Not being able to itch a scratch? Not being able to call for help? Not being able to pick up the phone and tell your friends and family how much you love them?
This is what life was like for my friend, Craig Dunham. He was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) in April, 2008 and slowly lost the ability to move or speak. Despite this terrible disease, however, Craig never cursed his fate.
But what do you give to someone who can’t move? It turns out, I came up with a perfect gift: a gift of love. I planned several conference calls with Craig’s friends and relatives – including many who lived out of state. I asked them to tell Craig why they were thankful to have him in their lives, talk about special memories, poems, prayers or inspirational messages – and of course, to tell him how much they loved him. I used FreeConferencePro, a free conferencing call software package that allows you to record calls and create .mp3 files.
Then, as a Thanksgiving surprise, I played the recording for Craig and transferred it to his .mp3 player so he could listen to it over and over. I took a video of him receiving the gift and mouthing the words, ‘I love you’ so I could share this back with all the friends and family who had participated.
Craig died about two weeks later on December 6 , 2010. He could no longer swallow and didn’t want a feeding tube. On my final visit to him, he thanked me again for the recording and told me he’d listened to it many times. Even though he couldn’t speak, he always found a way to communicate – especially his gratitude and love. I have never been so inspired by anyone as I have by this man who suffered so much, yet never played the victim.
At Craig’s service, I met many of his friends and family - names I recognized from coordinating the calls. They were so grateful for having had that chance to tell Craig they loved him and to see his video reply.
This was a gift that cost nothing but was undoubtedly, the most meaningful gift I’ve ever given. I was able to help friends and family communicate their love to Craig and help him share it back with them before he died. And I got a gift, too. I was able to hear all the wonderful memories and messages and listen to these with Craig. I heard and felt all the love and that enveloped my heart. Even though his physical presence is no longer here, that love will remain with me for the rest of my life.