Sunday, March 01, 2009


It's hard to believe, but my friend Annette has been gone six years today. I first met Annette in 1991 when I began walking at the mall early in the morning. She was also a new walker and we quickly became friends. We joined in with a group of other mall walkers that met daily in the food court for coffee and conversation after walking.

Another one of the walkers we met was Jean. Annette and I lived in the same town and Jean lived close by in the next town. Jean mostly walked outside, but about once or twice a week she'd come to the mall. I would occasionally walk outside in the afternoon at a local park with Jean. Soon Annette, Jean, and I started meeting for coffee or frozen yogurt about one afternoon a week. We'd have a good time solving all the world's problems and exchanging stories about our husbands and kids.

Sadly, in a really bizarre coincidence my two friends were both diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease (also known as ALS) within a few weeks of each other. Both had started exhibiting problems with walking and muscle weakness. I think most people probably go their entire lives and never know anyone with this horrible disease. It is relatively rare and there is no treatment or cure. In fact, they still don't even know what causes it. A diagnosis of ALS is a death sentence.

ALS is a cruel disease. Muscles become weaker and walking becomes extremely difficult. Eventually a wheel chair becomes a necessity. Swallowing becomes difficult and after a while eating is almost impossible. Drooling is a problem too. Many lose the ability to speak. You wouldn't wish this disease on your worst enemy.

The last time Annette, Jean, and I met for coffee we went to a new Starbucks that had just opened. At that time Annette was using a walker and Jean had a leg brace. I believe that might have been one of the last times Jean drove. I helped them both into the store and then went up and ordered their drinks and brought them to the table. I was the waitress that day since my friends could no longer easily get up.

To this day I have trouble going into that particular Starbucks. I've done it a few times over the years, but I've had trouble every time. I order my drink and then leave as quickly as possible before I make a fool of myself by bursting into tears.

I think it's time I focused on the good times we had together. All the times we shared stories and laughed. I need to focus on all the good years my friends had and not the time after their ALS diagnosis. After all, there were many, many good years.
This week I'm going to pay a visit to that Starbucks. I'm going to remember my friends and smile. It's time.




  1. Betty, I am sorry to hear about your friends Annette and Jean.I think it is a good idea to go visit that Starbuck and remember the good times.
    It is so strange that they both had the same rare disease.
    Re one of your previous posts:I have the same problem you have with plastic packaging, I think they do that sometimes to prevent people from tearing the packages apart in the store. As for the bottles I have trouble opening them too sometimes and have to get somebody to do it. Sometimes they are so resistant more than one person's aid has to be requested, When I can't get help I have even resorted to boiling the bottles. That's supposed to help for some scientific reason I can't recall right now. I don't have any muscular problems either so its not just you.
    One day I am going to take a picture of my favorite doll and send it to you.

  2. Betty, that was a sad/sweet story. I love your stories. You write very well. I think it's good to concentrate on the fun/wonderful parts of knowing Annette and Jean. I think they would be happy you are still thinking of them! I heard somewhere that whenever you talk about those who have passed on, they haven't really died; they live. I think that's a great outlook to have; to remember those good times with special friends.

  3. What a nice tribute to your friends. It is weird that they would both get ALS. We had a friend who had the disease. it was so sad to watch his body fail him but his mind was still so sharp.

    Your friends would probably want you to go back to Starbucks and have a little coffee "toast" to them!

  4. A touching tribute to your friends, Betty. I can certainly understand your feelings about going into that Starbucks. But they both look like lovely, positive ladies and I think they would want you to remember the good times now.

  5. What a sad story, Betty. I had a patient on my books when I worked for the medical agency. He was diagnosed with the disease very young, just around the time he got married. His wife stayed with him all through the years and at one point he was the patient in these parts who had lived the longest with this disease. It is truly a horrible disease and the odds of two of your friends having it must be incredible!! Enjoy your coffee at the Starbucks...your friends would want it that way!

  6. There is never a good time to lose the special people in our lives, or our fur-kids, for that matter.

    I have buried a child and both of my parents and one friend when I was only 18. I wish I could say that it will never happen again...a funeral in my life, but I know it will.

    Tonight my thoughts are with you as you recall your dear friends, their lives and the precious memories they left behind.

  7. What a great tribute to your friends Betty! My sister-in-laws mother (whom we were very close to as we also grew up in church with them) was diagnosed with ALS several years ago and she passed away this past April. So very ,very sad.It is a cruel disease that strikes the best..she was an amazing lady clear to the end!! Always had a smile on her face and so kind!


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