Suffering Well…Through ALS, part 2

Suffering Well…Through ALS, part 2

This is part 2 of an interview conducted by Nathan Oates with Eric C. in Feb. 2024. If you missed the previous post, part 1, please start there.

E: I was losing my ability with my right arm. I thought it was carpal tunnel. July 6, 2022 was the last day I ever ran… All of that was ALS.

But even then I thought, “God, if you want me to continue running or to continue in school you must give me the strength.” But the physical strength only lessened. I lost more and more weight. But my spiritual strength got stronger. The needle in my life moved drastically spiritually.

N: Can you describe “spiritual strength?”

E: Resilience. The ability to bounce back, to recover. For me that looked like I couldn’t hold my pencil a certain way. So what I do? I didn’t feel bad for myself. I figured out a new way to hold my pencil…until I couldn’t write with my right hand…So I figured out how to write with my left hand…then couldn’t write, so I’d type…then couldn’t type, so I learned another way to type…

All my life lessons leading up to this were learning how to fail well.

Failure is a beautiful thing. Get back up though!

Spritiual strength is not perfection. It’s about what happens when adversity is at your door step. When I wasn’t able to adapt or overcome, I’d simply ask God or ask others to pray for me. 
I remember all those times in church before the diagnosis, I was crippled in tears, all I could do is cry, and then there would be 5 or 6 people around me, praying for me, and they had no idea what I was going through. But what they were doing was building up my spiritual muscles. Some days I wasn’t able to lift my head up till after the service. I was fighting. I was trying to let it go.

I remember asking mom and dad to come with me to church in Nov. of 22. I hadn’t been to church in 4 or 5 months because of school. I was on weekend clinical rotations. I asked them to come to church. You asked me how I was – it had been at least a month – and I just wept in tears because I didn’t have words but I had the community to lean on. I knew I had mom and dad, actually I had Dr. David Timms and his wife Kim next to me as well. I remember that day vividly… so it does relate to that question about spiritual strength.

My mom asked me, “Are you sure you want me to go?” “Absolutely.” I said, “I will not make it through.” They have not missed a Sunday since.

N: Tell me about that sign (on your wall) that says, “Release Daily.”

E: I have this wooden sign above my doorway on purpose. As I leave my room, I see it and ask, “What do I need to let go of today?” And then I give it to God. Bitterness, anger, frustration, a death in the family, disappointment, wanting control of my life… “Release daily” was a word that God gave me before ALS and then I got the diagnosis. And now it’s the word of my life: release daily. I quite literally don’t have the option not to release daily. Because, like I said, my disease is palpable like your heart beat. I can feel it taking over my body, almost everyday, definitely weekly. But with that I gain more and more strength and dependence on God.

N: what’s the fruit of increased dependence on God?
E: Freedom. Absolute freedom.

People always compliment my smile that I have every day – almost every minute of the day. That’s truly because I’m experiencing freedom in Christ, freedom of life. I feel more full of life from releasing daily or letting go daily than ever before. I have more sense of worth.

N: More sense of worth? Why?
E: Because I recognize what is important in life which is relationship with God. My sense of worth is dependent on nothing other than what God says in his word and what he says about me. My career, marital status, doesn’t mean worth to me. But my relationship with God and others is what is “worth.”

About a week ago I was laying in my bed and I often have horrible dreams and they’re not fun and normal. One night in between dreams, I was awake, laying on my right side and I knew no one was in the room and I felt a hug – a physical hug – and I didn’t even need to look over my shoulder to see if anyone was in the room. I knew it was God in the room, saying “I am with you. Do not fear. I am with you.”

I had that experience one other time and I made a point to note it. That was a literal hug. There was a hand on my left shoulder that was facing the ceiling. It’s times like that I don’t need to ask why. This life is only a glimpse of what we will have in eternity.

N: Thank you, Eric. You just wrote a 2000 word essay!
E: (laughs.)

E: Selfishly I want my life to help others. Selfishly I want my life to have meaning.
I don’t know how many people get to see the impact they’ve had on this side of heaven, but I have. 200 people showed up to my birthday party. Many more have said, “Thank you, Eric, for how you’re living. That’s a gift of God and I don’t want to take it lightly. Most of the time we talk about how awesome people are at their funeral, but not before they’ve left this earth. I feel so fortunate to have heard at my birthday party what I have meant to my friends and family.

I’m grateful for God giving me the insight, perspective, discernment right now… to capture it and share it.


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