(Photo courtesy of Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics)
This may surprise a lot of people, but when my Mom got the diagnosis of ALS, none of us gave up on our faith.
We understood the prognosis, which unfortunately meant that there was no cure, and that it was just a matter of time before my Mom passed away. But as hard as that was, we never turned our backs on God.
That didn't mean there weren't questions. There were plenty of those. Why is this happening? Why Mom?
But at the end of the day, we recognized the situation and faced it head on. I can tell you that it was humbling to go from playing in front of 40,000 people at Busch Stadium to taking care of my Mom's basic needs. And yet, because that was what the situation required, that was what I needed to do.
Taking care of my mom had plenty of upsides too. We got to spend time together again, just like we used to. Only this time, instead of her playing me Amazing Grace, it was me returning the favor.
I would break out my acoustic guitar and help put her to sleep with that song. I've been playing guitar since I was young, but back then she could only hear the faint sounds of my music from her room. This time I made it a point to come over and play for her.
As I got older, the song took on a new meaning for me. When I was a baby I just loved the melody, but years later, I understood the message of the lyrics, and why they were written. For those who don't know the story, Amazing Grace was written by John Newton, a man who was once involved in slave trading and eventually became involved in ministry.
But the lyrics "I once was blind but now I see" also applied to my life as well. ALS quickly put things in perspective for me. The occasional strikeout or error didn't seem as big anymore. One of my best friends, Mark Appel, had a similar experience. He didn't battle through ALS, but he became one of three players to be drafted #1 overall and never reach the big leagues. Both of us reached the conclusion that God has a plan for everything.
And that God can take terrible situations and make great things out of them.
Photo courtesy of Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics
I became inspired to start a foundation to help others with ALS. I've seen the impact people like Steve Gleason can have on the world, and I want to do the same. Steve was a linebacker at Washington State and the New Orleans Saints. He wasn't a superstar before his ALS diagnosis, but he has now raised millions of dollars to fight this disease. I even got to meet Steve during spring training this year.
I met him in the clubhouse and gave him a tour of our facilities, but I think I got the better end of that deal. I got to meet the guy who has inspired me so much by handling his adversities with such grace.
When my non-profit launches, my main focus will be on finding a cure. I think helping people who are diagnosed is a worthy cause as well, but if we can eradicate this disease, then people never have to worry about treatment.
But of all the beautiful things that have transpired in the aftermath of my Mom's passing, one of the coolest had to be that at-bat at Fenway Park.