Always In Our Hearts Tia….

Tia Colli And Tio Lilo

So 2 weeks ago when I was in NYC, I got a call on Saturday morning from Panama. It was my sister, and she called to let me know that my my favorite aunt from my mother’s side of the family had passed away from ALS; also known as Lou Gehrig’s diseases. She was like a grandmother to me, even flying up from Panama to Philly for my college graduation.  She was diagnosed with ALS about 5 years ago; at about the same time that I last saw her during one of my trips to Panama.  What’s crazy is that while I have been all over the place traveling for the last 3 years, I never once really wanted to go back to Panama when I could have a couple times.

Fast forward to this summer. After finishing up my last contract with the swoosh and before I began a job search, I wanted to take a trip to South Africa or Spain for the World Cup. When I looked at tickets for Joburgh or Cape Town, they were ridiculous!  For the same price of just the tickets and hostel, I could do 2 weeks in Europe and have enough to go see my family in Panama. It was my Mom’s bday too!  No Brainer! Plus I could finally see my Aunt Colli. When I arrived she was a shell of her former self physically…but she was still her same old self mentally. She was always so sharp witted and stubborn. Really a great person at heart! I spent a week with Aunt Colli trying my best to entertain her with stories of my last couple years and playing bingo with her, the nurses and my cousins.  She even got me to sit and watch spanish novelas (soap operas) with her (did they ever find Christina?). It was great to spend those last couple days with her and my family in Panama. Well God works in mysterious ways.  I would have probably not been in Panama that week had I not been off of work. I probably would have used my vacation time to go to Spain only instead of spending it with my Aunt before she left this earth. I’m glad God made that possible.

Lou and the Babe

ALS is a crazy disease! It attacks and breaks down all of your muscles 1 by 1 until your lungs fail and you can’t breath. The crazy and cruel thing about it is that the whole time your brain remains the same. You remain conscious the entire time your body is dying 1 muscle at a time. It has always been thought to be a genetic disease.  Last night, I was watching Real Sports on HBO and they did a report on studies that suggests that ALS happens more often in professional athletes that any other population. These 2 doctors found that the brain of ALS athletes all had 1 thing in common; head trauma.  Concussions are part of almost every professional contact sport and having a direct link to ALS is scary (Kinda glad I couldn’t hit that curveball in HS now or fast enough to play football in college). It turns out Lou Gehrig, the baseball Ironman himself, was hit in the head by pitches multiple times over his career. Once he played with his head so swollen he had to borrow Babe Ruth’s hat; a full size bigger than his own.

I know my aunt was never a pro athlete, but this really hit home considering all the young athletes I have been working with the last 10 years of my life.  For many, the NFL or MLB is their dream….but sometimes you have to realize risks.  I keep thinking about former Eagles running back Brian Westbrook who suffered some serious injuries last season. He just re-signed with another team. Hopefully he doesn’t come back t0o soon from those injuries and do some irreversible damage that he might not see for a couple years.  If you want to read more about the study check this out. It’s crazy!

In any case, keep my Aunt Colli and Uncle Lilo in your hearts and prayers! She’s in a better place now but we all are going to miss her so much; especially my Mom and Uncle. Te Amo Tia! Un fuerte abrazo y beso! You can now rest in peace….

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2 Responses to “Always In Our Hearts Tia….”

  1. Joshua Charles Says:

    Great post Al…glad you got to spend that time with her. ALS is vicious…

    • Thanks Brother….It’s hard losing the ones you love. However, sometimes they land in a better place were they hurt less and can also watch over us from afar. Make sure you spend time with the ones you love while you still can! You will always have those memories!

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