Don and Lorraine were married in 1989. Like most newlyweds, they likely envisioned themselves raising children, growing old together, and living happily into retirement. Filled with love and dedication to each other, they made their vows to love and support each other “in sickness and in health.” The promise of marriage is never taken lightheartedly, but few anticipated what would befall the Moir family.
Six short years into marriage and three children later, Don was diagnosed with ALS. Every week, Lorraine watched her husband lose more and more of his mobility, until he had to be put on a ventilator, and lost his ability to speak. Lorraine, who had to learn to care for the farm, her three children, and the ever increasingly dependent Don all on her own, now could no longer even hold a conversation with her husband without a painfully time consuming process that involved a piece of paper with letters printed in the corners. As for Don, it must have been like losing his final piece of independence. He could no longer express his own thoughts without someone’s aid. Every idea had to be communicated letter by letter.
Despite what must have been an incredible toll on Lorriane both physically and emotionally, she continued to support and care for Don for 15 years. Over that time, I imagine that Don had to be very selective in what he chose to communicate. They no longer even had the luxury to reminisce together or share a fleeting thought. It was then that a team of volunteers at Not Impossible intervened. In a beautiful example of how technology helps bring people together, they worked to develop a program that Don can use independently to give his thoughts voice once again. His first letter to Lorraine brought tears to my eyes.
The technology is impressive, and I applaud the team at Not Impossible, but the person who really stands out in this story is Lorraine. Often the impact a disease such as ALS can have on family members gets overlooked. In a way, she is no longer a wife, but a caregiver. It can be so emotionally and physically consuming that it encompasses the majority of her identity. Many cannot handle the pressure. But the commitment she had on her wedding day continued to stay strong. The love they share in the midst of such trials is heartwarming and commendable. It’s a life that no bride envisions for her future, but it is still one filled with love.
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