Sunday, May 5, 2013
Former Stanford football player follows in the footsteps of Lou Gehrig, and shares his own battle with the devastating illness named after the great baseball legend
By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries
NASHVILLE, TN (ANS) -- On March 27, 2012, former Stanford football player, Ted Bleymaier, and his wife, Ann, sat across the examination table from Dr. Kamisky as he confirmed to them the devastating diagnosis of ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, that Ted was suffering from.
“Other than a few mechanical injuries I had sustained playing sports all my life, I had never really been sick.
“I was 62 years old, in great shape with a beautiful wife, two daughters, a son in law and the greatest dog in the world named Berwyn. My wife and I were traveling the country helping non-profits put on fund raising golf tournaments and we loved it. This also afforded me a great opportunity to play golf as I have most of my life. In fact, with a career in the Air Force and then as VP of International for Word Entertainment, I have been blessed to have played golf in over 40 countries around the world.”
Bleymaier, who met his wife in the UK while serving in the Air Force – she is from North Wales – continued, “Lou Gehrig’s disease effects the motor neurons…they die and your muscles atrophy. It affects the voluntary muscles, but not the involuntary. Your heart is not affected and for the most part you are fully cognizant of the fact that your body is falling apart…and there is nothing you can do about it.
“You will lose most of your motor skills including the ability to breathe and swallow. To this day, they have not figured out what causes ALS and there are no known remedies or medications to cure the disease. In the US, only 2 out of 100,000 come down with ALS. 50% of the patients die in the first 18 months and 90% die in 3 to 5 years. As a result there are only about 30,000 people in the US who have this disease at any one time.
“In fact, if it was not for Lou Gehrig, this disease would be almost invisible. If I may, let me take you back to 1939. Baseball was the biggest sport…by far…in the country and since Babe Ruth had retired in 1935, Lou was the sport’s biggest hero. There is no equivalent to Lou’s stature in our country today. He had not missed a single game in 17 years for the NY Yankees…truly the original iron man.
“As the season began, Lou was only batting 158 with just 1 RBI. He then gets diagnose with a disease which no one had ever heard of and then two weeks later the Yankees and all of baseball honored Lou before the start of a home game. Lou never played another game and died within two years. This was later immortalized in the movie, The Pride of the Yankees, starring Gary Cooper. I can almost assure all of the graduates here that each of your parents have seen this movie…probably more than once. In one of the most recognizable sport quotes of all time, Lou called himself ‘the luckiest man on the face of the earth.’
“WOW…now that is having an attitude of gratitude!”
He went on to say, “You know it is easier to give thanks when things are going well. I applaud each of you graduating seniors for a job well done and I know you only look forward to the next step in life…an opportunity to be productive in our society, maybe a chance to marry and raise a family and make a difference in the world around you. And most of all…no more finals…at least for a while.
“I had a favorite saying every time I came out of a test during my time at Stanford working on both my undergraduate and graduate degrees…I did my best and in 10 years, it won’t matter what I scored on that test! And you know, it never did.”
“Some of you may recognize the name of Steve Gleason who played defensive back for the New Orleans Saints for 7 years. Three years ago, Steve came down with ALS. At the end of an interview before the 2012 Super Bowl, Steve was asked if he ever thinks about dying. He said he did because he now has a timeline…and then said something very interesting: ‘Most of us don’t live like we have a timeline.’
“Let me encourage each of us in this room today, both young and old, if you want to change your life…and we are never too old to change, live life like you have a timeline…it will give you a whole new perspective on your life!”
Bleymaier said, “I am humbled to have two degrees from Stanford, played on two winning Rose Bowl teams (for you Big Ten fans that was Ohio St in ‘71 and Michigan in ‘72), but the single biggest thing that happened during my Stanford career and the most important event in my life occurred in the Fall of my Freshman year when I made a personal decision to accept Jesus Christ into my life.
“I had the benefit of growing up in a strong Christian family and thought that was all I needed to do to be a part of the club. Moving away from home, getting hurt the first day of football practice, flunking a math placement exam and struggling to fit in caused me to turn to Christ in a personal way that changed my life forever.”
He said that his life verse since his Freshman year has been Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and do not rely on your own resources, but in all of your ways, acknowledge him and he will make straight your paths.”
Bleymaier then stated, “I wish I could say that I have always followed that advice, but as many of my friends know and I know…I have fallen short many times over the years. But his grace is sufficient and his mercies everlasting. Let me ask you a personal question, Have you accepted Christ as your personal Lord and Savior? It is never too late…it is always the right time. There is nothing else that will prepare you more to face the opportunities and the challenges that life has to offer than a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
“In my new circumstances, the truth of Proverbs 3:5-6 has really hit home. My doctors and the medical world are still searching for answers to ALS…they have none…which in today’s world of such tremendous advances in medical science is amazing.
“So back to God’s word (not a bad idea) and I am now claiming my second life verse: Hebrews 13:5-6: ‘God has said, Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. So we say with confidence, The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid.’
Bleymaier then told the audience that he liked what a lady named Vivian Greene once said: “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass…it’s about learning to Dance in the rain!” and then he added, “You know we always have a choice in life…and I am choosing to learn how to Dance in the rain!
“Let me close with a short illustration. Back in the 70’s…not so long ago for about half the audience here today, there was a sociological study done with 50 people over the age of 95. They simply asked them if they had their life to live over again, what would you do differently? Now remember, these folks were born in the 19th century, had lived through two world wars and the great depression.”
He said that there were certainly a variety of answers, as you can imagine, but three answers were most dominant:
1. If I had it to do over again, I would have risked more.
“What are you going to do to make a difference?” he asked the students. “Are you going to be defined by those around you, or are you going to build upon the Christian World View that this university has endeavored to instill in you through every subject and facet of your college years.
“My wife, Ann, and I have spoken a paraphrase of Aaron’s blessing upon the Israelites from Numbers 6: 24-26 over our two daughters from the time they were in my wife’s womb to this day as young women. If I may I would like to close by leading all the parents here today in a blessing on each and every graduating senior.”
He concluded by asking the graduating seniors, if they would mind standing? And then said, “Graduates of Lipscomb University, Class of 2013: The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you and the Lord lift up the light of his countenance upon you and give you his peace and his healing in Jesus name. Amen!”
If you would like to e-mail Ted, just send your message to: email@example.com
Background on the Lipscomb University:
Their founding concept continues to be reflected in the university mission today: to integrate Christian faith and practice with academic excellence. This mission is carried out not only in the classroom but also by involvement in numerous services to the church and the larger community. Lipscomb served as a junior college until graduating its first senior college class in 1948. The institution received its first accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in 1954. In 1988, that organization's Commission on Colleges advanced Lipscomb's accreditation to the master's degree level and in 2007 to the doctoral degree level. Today, more than 4,000 students are enrolled at the university and choose from 135 undergraduate programs and several pre-professional programs, from 24 master's degree programs in 41 areas of study such as accountancy, biblical studies, business administration, civic leadership, conflict management, counseling, computing and technology, education and exercise and nutrition.
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