“Many words have been used to describe me, son, student, veteran, teacher, coach, speaker, manager, husband, father. But my favorite is Dad.” Gene Buckner, August 19th, 1996
To this day I can still remember standing on my Daddy’s feet and dancing around in the kitchen. Going on bike rides trying so hard to keep up on my no speeds bike. Summer evenings spent playing baseball and soccer in the backyard as a family. The feeling of safety in his big Daddy hugs and how small my hands felt in his.
I will never forget the day that changed everything. It was exactly one week after my twelfth birthday. I was trying to learn the ropes of middle school and survive this new stage in growing up. That evening while doing homework my parents got a call from a doctor they had been to see. My Dad had acquired a limp that wouldn’t go away. Some test results had come back. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. A nervous system disease that weakens muscles (destroys) and impacts physical function. No known cause no known treatment. A death sentence. There is something so heart breaking and earth shaking about hearing a parent cry. What was going on? Was this really happening?
My father courageously battled against the disease that had invaded his body. He and my Mom researched and researched (no smart phones yet or Google internet searches). They tried every known natural treatment. He went from a limp to needing a walker to wheelchair bound. He fought hard for four and a half years. He lost his ability to walk, talk, feed himself etc…
“ALS slowly robs you of your ability to do everything. At first they are small abilities like using an adding machine or tying your shoes. Later they are walking and talking. The hardest loss for me is that of being an active father. It hurt when I was no longer able to walk my daughter down the aisle when she was married. It hurts when I am not able to attend special events with a daughter and see her perform or play ball with my son.” Gene Buckner, September 16th, 1996
On January 4th, 1997 my Father was taken home. We were all around him and all got a chance to say goodbye. His body was mostly paralyzed by that point, but his mind was all there. He held on, fighting for each breath, until we were all by his side before he gave up his valiant fight.
My father has been gone now just over nineteen years. I still miss him and think of him often. Each big moment he has missed, and all the wonderful wisdom he could have provided in this crazy walk of life.
On Christmas 2011 my Mother presented us all with copies of my Father’s journal which was written while sick after he had lost his ability to write and speak. A older gentlemen from our church would come and see him once a week and journal for him. He would hold up a clear, square board with letters on it. My Dad would spell each word out to him one letter at a time. His thoughts, heart aches, memories and letter to each of his 4 children, his brave wife, mother, aunts, caregivers and friends.
The following is one of two letters my father wrote to me. This one was given to me on my 16th birthday, September 4th, 1996.
A jewel takes ordinary light and reflects brilliant colors. It is admired by all who see it’s beauty and warmth, a jewel by its very nature has value and beauty.
In times of trouble the value of the jewel increases. Amy, you are my jewel. You take an ordinary day and fill it with brilliant color and warmth.
You are valuable not only to me but to your Heavenly Father also. During the last few years we have seen times of trouble as well as times of blessings. Your helpful attitude has been of great value to me.
I am thankful for the time we have had for I have seen you begin to mature into a lovely christian young woman.
On your birthday, know that I am thinking of my beautiful jewel and that I love you. Dad” Gene Buckner
I am thankful to have had such a wonderful father, if only for a short time. I am now a 34 year old wife and mother of three. His wonderful words mean more than ever to me. His faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and the very real strength He gave is such a testimony to me. The loss is a deep, real one. But I serve a God who is so much bigger than the pain of today. He walks with me each moment and is a lamp unto my feet and light unto my path. He has walked me through many more very challenging seasons of life and has performed miracles. I am thankful for the promise my Savior has given. I will see my D A D again one day. Boy do I have some stories to tell him and some sweet little people to introduce to their dear grandpa.
“There will be weeping during the night but rejoicing comes in the morning. Thank you.” January 1, 1997 at 2:05pm.