My friend, Craig Dunham, is afflicted with ALS (more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease.) He can only move one finger these days, but he's more alive than anyone I know. I still see that same playful spirit in his eyes, challenging me to live life to the fullest.
I recently had an email conversation with Craig that he's given me permission to share. I'm getting ready to publish The Laptop Dancer Diaries, and I wanted to make sure he'd be OK with what I'd written about him. Craig has a special keyboard that can be strapped to his chair, close to his mobile finger, allowing him to use the computer.
I'd sent him what I'd written, and because I knew it was hard for him to type, I'd given him multiple choice options with option A being "It's OK to publish as is." Craig wrote me back a full poem that touched me. He is such an amazing man. In order to understand the poem, scroll down to the end so you can see the thread of emails.
I wanted to share how inspiring Craig is. There really are no words to describe, so this is the best I can do...
Note: I got an email from Amy Whipple of www.als.net telling me that progress is being made towards a cure to ALS. Please visit the website to see how you can help.
From: Craig Dunham
Date: Sun, Feb 14, 2010 at 9:38 PM
Subject: RE: Need your approval!
To: Yvette Francino
From: Yvette Francino [email@example.com]
Sent: Sunday, February 14, 2010 5:25 PM
To: Craig Dunham; Craig Dunham
Subject: Need your approval!
Thank you so much for the Valentine surprise today! Yum! How thoughtful of you to think of me! Hey, I'm sorry that I'm going to have to ask you to answer this quickly, but I have to get this final version of my book in tonight, if possible. I rewrote the sections about you and I want to make sure you're OK with the changes. You have no idea how deeply you fill my heart. I love and admire you more than you'll ever know and I wish somehow I could share these deep feelings with the world. However I want to respect your privacy and feelings as well.
Please read the sections below and let me know what you think. I know it must be hard for you to type so I'll give you some choices and you can just type in the letter response:
A) I'm OK with you using it just this way.
B) You can use it, but change my name to Greg.
C) I prefer you don't use this.
D) It's OK, but what happened to the scene about the Deer Tick inspector?
Just so you know the answer to D.... I wanted to write about the Deer Tick inspector, but that was in the PWP forum, so I no longer have the story. Of course, I will always remember it as my introduction to one of my dearest (or is that "deerest"?) friends ever.
(See Below for rewritten sections!)
January 13 8:00 pm
I make a quick call and invite another friend, Craig, to join. Craig’s great. He’s got this intensely spiritual side – one of the only Catholics I know that can quote the Bible. (Most of us are good at memorizing prayers, but don’t really know too many Bible verses.) But Craig is just downright good, right to the core. However, at the oddest moments he’ll come up a risqué remark which is especially hilarious because it seems so out of character. I hadn’t originally asked him to join us – he has a girlfriend and this was supposed to be my big January date, but obviously it appears to be turning into a group event. Craig's in Phoenix on business and had asked me to give him a call when I was here. With him along at least the male/female ratio will be a little better and I'll get some male attention.
As I limp to the concert, feeling about as sexy as a wounded dog, I hear Bitch talking about some "50-year-old dirty old man” that's after her. (I think this is enough to turn off Craig who is close to 50 himself, so I now have an ally in my distaste for Bitch.) She's quite drunk by this time and obviously thoroughly smitten with her own humor and sex appeal. Chet, similarly imbibed, is entertained and enjoying the attention from Bitch and her friend. I'm not entertained in the least. Having sobered up, I realize there will be no seduction moves tonight. At least not from me!
Devil: Wuss... You could at least have a nice little cat fight. Another disappointing night.
May 12 8am
This morning, when I opened my front door, I found a beautiful bouquet of flowers in a big green vase on my doorstep. The card simply had my name on it and said “Somebody loves you.” Today would have been my 24th Wedding Anniversary. Could it possibly be from my ex-husband? One of my kids? No one ever mentioned my anniversary before. Could I have a secret admirer?
May 12 5pm
Mystery solved. The flowers were from my friend, Craig. You may remember that Craig came to my rescue by providing male attention at the Kool in the Gang concert on my January date-of-the-month. Boy Toy Chet had invited two young ..ahem.. women, along and I needed to even out the male/female ratio.
Well, I recently sent Craig a care package and the flowers were his way of thanking me. In true “Craig-style” he sent me a funny email telling me that he’d taken on a new flower-delivery job and that he’d delivered a bouquet to my home this morning. “From the looks of that bouquet, someone must love you very much!” he wrote.
The email made me cry. I’ve been crying a lot. I haven’t written about it because… well, this is supposed to be a humor book, and there’s nothing funny about this. Craig was recently diagnosed with ALS – more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
I’ve been thinking a lot about faith. How could someone so devout, so loving – so “Craig” – how could someone that epitomizes goodness be stricken with this disease? He’s 47 with three kids. I can’t bear to imagine this world without him. I question God, unable to understand why this is happening.
But Craig doesn’t question for a minute. His faith remains stronger than ever. He tells me he’s not afraid. He wrote in his email telling of his prognosis:
“I especially appreciate the opportunity to show my children how life can be lived without anger, resentment, bitterness or regrets. I have purged all of that from my life and intend to leave this life with nothing but love, acceptance, forgiveness and compassion in my heart. I am so ready to live life to its fullest. I only wish I would have thought to do it sooner.”
I have so much admiration and respect for this man. I wish I could experience half the devotion and faith that he has. His courage inspires me more than words can say.
Craig doesn’t spend a minute feeling sorry for himself. I cry at the thought of losing him and realize that that is the last thing he’d want me to do. He would want me to follow his example, love God, and “live life to the fullest.”
From this day forward, whenever my faith is shaken; whenever I’m feeling sorry for myself or feeling angry at life’s little injustices, I will think of Craig and remember his amazing attitude.
God, I don’t get it, but I will try to be more like Craig and hold off on the questions. Just please fill the rest of Craig’s life with love and happiness and give him a special place in Heaven when he gets there. I’m sure You know, there’s no one that deserves it more.