Keith LeClair: Witnessing Through ALS
For those of you here in the Triad, you may recall seeing an article in the sports section of Thursday's Winston-Salem Journal or Friday's Greensboro News & Record about East Carolina's recent baseball fortunes, including the school's new Clark-LeClair Stadium.
The stadium is named in part for Keith LeClair, the Pirates' former head baseball coach who suffers from . . . ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Coincidentally, my cousin Paul recently sent me an e-mail about Keith, his courageous friend:
Keith is the former head baseball coach at ECU who was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease in the summer of 2001. Keith, Lynn, Audrey and J.D. moved to Greenville, North Carolina, about the same time we did in the summer of 1997. To make a long story short, we were members of the same church, became friends and eventually helped start a new Young Adult Sunday School class.
Keith received his diagnosis of ALS about one month after we moved back to Danville, Virginia. I thought you'd especially like to know about Keith because he has been such a wonderful witness for Christ and has uplifted so many other people through his unwavering faith as he struggles against this horrible disease. He is a constant reminder to me of the things that truly matter in life.
Keith is completely immobilized by the disease and his only means of communication now is a special computer on which he types by eyesight. He's actually become quite a prolific writer on both baseball and his faith. You can easily locate some of his baseball writing on a search engine.
Paul then forwarded me this powerful e-mail written by Keith the day after Terri Schiavo died:
From: Keith LeClair
Sent: Friday, April 01, 2005 12:49 PM
I THOUGHT I WOULD TAKE A BREAK FROM WRITING MY MONTHLY JOURNAL, WHICH I MAY ADD IS TAKING LONGER THAN I THOUGHT. I AM ON THE FIRST MONTH AND ALREADY HAVE EIGHTEEN PAGES WRITTEN, IT TAKES SOME TIME TYPING WITH YOUR EYE, SO I NEED TO HAVE SOME PATIENCE.
I GUESS TODAY I WANTED TO WRITE AND THANK TERRI SCHIAVO FOR HER COURAGEOUS FIGHT. ALTHOUGH TO MANY, SHE WAS CONSIDERED JUST BRAIN DEAD AND IN A SO CALLED VEGETATIVE STATE, SHE STILL WAS AN INSPIRATION TO ME. MAYBE I CAN RELATE WITH TERRI AND WHAT SHE WENT THROUGH, BECAUSE JUST LIKE HER I AM KEPT ALIVE NOT ONLY WITH A FEEDING TUBE, BUT A VENTILATOR AS WELL.
WHEN PEOPLE SEE ME OUT IN PUBLIC I KNOW A LOT OF FOLKS ARE THINKING, "WHY DOES HE WANT TO KEEPING LIVING LIKE THIS." ON THE OUTSIDE MY APPEARANCE LOOKS AS IF I WAS DEAD, BUT ON THE INSIDE I AM ALIVE AS EVER. I KNOW MY EYE GAZE COMPUTER ALLOWS ME TO COMMUNICATE AND CONTINUE TO BE PART OF SOCIETY IN SOME CAPACITY, WHICH TERRI DID NOT HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY OR ABILITY TO DO. I KNOW THIS IS A VERY CONTROVERSIAL ISSUE WITH MANY PEOPLE AND I AM NOT WRITING TO CONDEMN ONE'S POINT OF VIEW, BUT ONLY TO SHARE WHAT IT'S LIKE TO BE A PATIENT SIMILAR TO TERRI SCHIAVO. EVEN THOUGH MY MIND IS CLEAR, I AM TOTALLY DEPENDENT ON ARTIFICIAL MEANS OF LIFE AND PEOPLE TO TAKE CARE OF ME EVERY SINGLE DAY, ESPECIALLY LYNN, MY WIFE, WHO HAS SACRIFICED HER FREEDOM OF LIFE TO TAKE CARE OF ME. IN THIS REGARD, IT IS NO DIFFERENT THAN TERRI OR ANYONE ELSE WHO IS TRYING TO PUSH ON IN THIS CAPACITY.
I TRULY BELIEVE GOD HAS HAD A PLAN FOR MY LIFE DURING THIS TIME BEING KEPT ON A FEEDING TUBE AND VENTILATOR, JUST AS I BELIEVE GOD HAD PLANS FOR TERRI SCHIAVO THE PAST FIFTEEN YEARS. WHAT THOSE PLANS WERE I CANNOT SAY, BUT IF SHE TOUCHED ONE LIFE IN THOSE FIFTEEN YEARS IT WAS ALL WORTH THE TIME AND SACRIFICES SHE AND HER FAMILY MADE. I THINK ABOUT JESUS IN MATTHEW WHEN HE TALKED ABOUT THE SHEPHERD WATCHING OVER HIS HUNDRED FLOCK OF SHEEP.
"WHAT DO YOU THINK? IF A MAN OWNS A HUNDRED SHEEP, AND ONE OF THEM WANDERS AWAY, WILL HE NOT LEAVE THE NINETY-NINE ON THE HILLS AND GO LOOK FOR THE ONE THAT WANDERED OFF? AND IF HE FINDS IT, I TELL YOU THE TRUTH, HE IS HAPPIER ABOUT THAT ONE SHEEP THAN ABOUT THE NINETY-NINE THAT DID NOT WANDER OFF."
I'VE GOT TO BELIEVE TERRI'S ACCIDENT BROUGHT HOME ONE SHEEP THAT MAY HAVE WANDERED AWAY, AND MAYBE THROUGH HER COURAGE AND FIGHT EVEN MORE SHEEP WERE LED INTO JESUS' KINGDOM. I DO NOT THINK ANY GOVERNMENT, COURT OR INDIVIDUAL CAN PUT A PRICE TAG ON THE VALUE OF A HUMAN LIFE, MY FRIENDS, ONLY GOD CAN. WHAT I HATE MOST ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED TO TERRI SCHIAVO WAS THE FACT OUR COURTS MADE A DECISION TO STARVE HER TO DEATH. I DO NOT BELIEVE ANYONE CAN SAY WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO BE TOTALLY CUT OFF FROM FOOD AND WATER UNTIL DEATH. IF THIS PROCEDURE IS SO PEACEFUL, WHY DON'T OUR COURTS RULE IN FAVOR OF TRYING THIS ON OUR DEATH ROW INMATES, BETTER YET, TRY IT THEMSELVES FOR THIRTEEN DAYS AND SEE HOW PEACEFUL IT FEELS. YOU KNOW IF WE DID THIS TO OUR DOG WE WOULD BE SERVING TIME.
THANK YOU TERRI SCHIAVO FOR YOUR COURAGE AND FIGHT! WE KNOW YOU'RE IN HEAVEN NOW AND IN A PLACE WHERE THERE IS NO SUFFERING. GOD BLESS TERRI SCHIAVO.
"BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS. DO NOT BE AFRAID OR TERRIFIED BECAUSE OF THEM, FOR THE LORD YOUR GOD GOES WITH YOU; HE WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU NOR FORSAKE YOU."
If you would like to learn more about Keith's life and Christian witness, I encourage you to read an article written by Chris Kline that ran in Baseball America a little over a year ago.