BENEFITING: The ALS Association Tennessee Chapter
Ke Ning Liu Mason, my Chinese wife, had a father, Chairman Liu Zhi Yuan, who I dearly loved. I first met him in March of 2005. We had a wonderful relationship in spite of our language barrier. (Ke Ning says it will take me three generations to learn Chinese.)
Liu Zhi Yuan had been sent by Chairman Mao to Yueyang, China in the late 40's to establish civil order. It was an easy thing for him because his natural gentleness, kindness, and love for people made him an exemplary leader. I could see this when we took walks together. He was retired, but it was easy to see the love the citizens had for him. Each time we walked we stopped many times because he was greeted warmly by everyone we met. He always stopped to talk to the rich and powerful and the poor and destitute equally, and he would introduce me in Chinese proudly (Ke Ning said) as his future son-in-law.
He was an accomplished photographer, and he taught me many techniques in obtaining the ideal lighting conditions, framing a scene correctly, and adjusting the cameras' settings. He obviously sensed something because he told me he wanted me to have most of his photography equipment.
ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) took him away from us. I wept more at his death than I did when my own father died years earlier. I witnessed the indignities the gradual shutdown of his body caused. A quick death would have been a blessing, but he suffered increasingly every day, and each day I visited him in the hospital I saw more of what this dreadful disease had robbed from him. At first it was walking, then talking, then his motor control. A noble man to the end, he never complained. The last evening I saw him he attempted to write my name in Chinese characters on a piece of paper. Ke Ning recognized what he was trying to write. I cried.
That last evening I asked him through Ke Ning if I could Baptise him. I explained to him the signifigance of Baptism. Without hesitation he nodded assent. As I Baptised him, I told him that my tears were not being shed because he was about to die. My tears were for the pain and suffering he had to endure. He quietly endured that pain and suffering for two more hours, then, just as quietly he slipped away. His suffering ended.
A cure for ALS is absolutely necessary. No one should suffer like Chairman Liu did. ALS is one of the most common neuromuscular diseases worldwide, and people of all races and ethnic backgrounds are affected. One or two out of 100,000 people develop ALS each year..