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Photo by Denise Jans / Unsplash

The humbling lesson I got from a true superstar

Sometimes the people who are elevating other people's stories are the real story, but not enough people elevate them. This is my turn to do precisely that.

I stumbled across the term "geezer jock" the other day and looked it up. I had come across a story written by Ray Glier, the 65-year-old longtime sports journalist responsible for the term and the website, which you can find here:

What It Is. Who I Am.

I reached out to Ray with my story. He responded that I fit what he liked to write about. The idea, of course, is that you and I get to decide when it's time to quit exercising.

That's right up my alley, natch, so I leapt at the chance.

Ray revealed that he'd be diagnosed with ALS. For those of you not familiar with this terrible disease, it moves at its own devastating pace, removing more and more abilities from talking to eating to mobility along the way.

The baseball great Lou Gehrig got the disease years ago and it bears his name. His experience with it gave the disease the visibility it needed, and now it's much better understood. No cure, but money is being put towards one.

This is what ALS is and what it does:

What is ALS?
ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. There is no cure for ALS yet.

Ray is about a year into the disease. He had scheduled an interview with me but by the time our interview hour rolled around, he had "run out of air," as he put it. We rescheduled. When we did talk, I could hear the effects of this disease in his throat, his speech cadence.

Yet here he still is, interviewing oldsters about their athletic abilities and putting their stories out onto the web to make the point, as Yogi Berra put it, that "it ain't over 'til it's over."

Ray also writes on Substack, where I have a newsletter about how we're Too Old for This Sh*t. There he's continued to write about sports:

Ray Glier | Substack
Sports Journalist with 40 years experience. My bylines have appeared in The New York Times, USA TODAY, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and others.

You can see by the publication dates that Ray has slowed down considerably. But his work to elevate geezer jocks continues.

Early in January of 2023, a celebrated writer here in Eugene euthanized herself as she had entered the final stages of ALS. She was in so much pain that she knew it was time. She was a year older than I am, so in my mind she was quite young.

The day she took the medication which would end her suffering, she submitted her final manuscript.

Here is Cai Emmon's Medium piece in which she discusses, with exquisite clarity and joy, how she is tidying up the ends of her life:

Wrapping Up A Life
A good writer friend calls me a “completionist” because I insist on finishing a piece of writing even when I know it isn’t any good…

I have written about Emmons before, if for no other reason than I so respected how she went out, laughing and joking and coping and making fun of what was trying to steal her vibrancy. She was vibrant to the end.

ALS didn't dim her light; if anything she burned more brightly.

Such people are heroes to me. Ray Glier knows what's coming. He is living it. I am in awe of such efforts to keep working, giving, making a difference even as a devastating disease strips a person of agency, dignity and mobility.

The true dignity, however, is the commitment to keep right on living no matter what.

Ray's story about me comes out on Saturday. I'll share it here. But my story about Ray, who to me is the greater hero between us, is out today.

My heartfelt gratitude for a real profile in courage.

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Photo by Marek Piwnicki / Unsplash

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