Sarah Lysne: Finding strength from my ancestors

Published 6:30 am Saturday, December 5, 2020

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The day I was diagnosed with ALS, was a day I would like to forget, and yet there is something that stays with me about that moment in my life.

I believe there is a thin line between Heaven and Earth. As my husband and I waited for the doctor to come into the exam room, I seemed to be drawing inner strength from my ancestral roots, particularly memories of my grandpa Keenan.

Grandpa lived to be 89 years old, but he had a brush with death at the young age of 31. He was working at the Hormel plant on the line where they were boning hams. He had an accident in which his knife accidentally cut part of his finger. There was an infection that was so bad that his doctor had to get penicillin from the United States Army to save his life. He was the first person in Mower County to ever receive penicillin.

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Grandpa also survived five heart attacks during his lifetime, but he and my grandma had a good life together. They raised five children, and he worked at Hormel Foods for 41 years.

I felt my grandpa’s spiritual presence as the doctor went over my test results that confirmed my ALS diagnosis. When he was done explaining the results, I didn’t cry, instead I asked a lot of questions. It turns out that occasionally ALS can be misdiagnosed, because it is a difficult disease to diagnose. Part of the process was to rule out other medical reasons for my symptoms. An Electromyography test (EMG) was done to measure muscle response to nerve activity. As of now, my diagnosis would be ALS. If my symptoms would change in the future, then more tests would be done.

I found my grandpa was becoming my role model on this day, because he too was no stranger to hearing a doctor explain a report that wasn’t good, and yet he pushed on.

I’ve always had a terrible habit of trying to control the future of my life and the lives of the people I love. I’ve confided this habit to a friend and her response was, “Every story has a happy ending.” If you are a person of faith, you want to believe that, but I think it is normal for many of us to struggle with faith, doubt, and worries about the future.

About one year after I was diagnosed, I was driving down the street, and all of a sudden, I had this thought,”It’s okay that you have ALS.” I’m not sure where it came from, and I was confused. Why was I having this thought? How could it be okay? What good could come out of it? That’s

the day I decided to focus on the joys of my life. I decided that focusing on the joys could make this disease manageable, even if I couldn’t accept the notion that it was okay. I felt I was carrying on my grandpa’s legacy of being fiercely brave. I know that if I keep using my grandpa, as a role model, I will continue to be strong and handle whatever comes my way.

Please use the email provided below to submit a sentence or two about your joys in life! Your submissions will be printed anonymously, and you will be inspiring others to look for joys in their lives.

The Joy of Others

Sent from my iPhone I am 79 yrs. young. I live with my daughter and her husband. I have many joys in my life but one is very special to me. I never thought I would live long enough to see my great grandchildren. Two girls and two boys,they live nearby and I do see them often. So much laughter and love when they come one at a time or all together. I have been blessed with three children of my own. One girl, and two boys. Those three gave me Joy with four beautiful girls and four handsome boys.Then the frosting on the cake came the biggest Joy, of four great grandchildren two girls and two boys. My heart️ is filled with much Joy.

Sarah Lysne is asking people send her descriptions of the joy they have in their life. To send your story, email it to