When someone is diagnosed with a serious medical condition facing a life-altering and possibly life-ending disease, suddenly the fact that we are all mortal slaps us in the face. Most people research the disease, go to medical experts, and find out everything they can about the disease looking for a cure.
At different points of the journey, people often ask themselves what has been and will continue to be important to me in this life. Did you make a difference? Were your relationships strong and sustaining? Were we the best spouse, friend, or parent that we could be? How will we be remembered?
When Pete Frates faced these questions after being diagnosed 7 years ago with a fatal rare disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, he was a young man. He was not married and was at the point that most people consider the beginning of his life. Like malignant mesothelioma, ALS is a rare disease. Funding for rare disease research is difficult to find. Pete Frates and his family – through the ice bucket challenge – raised hundreds of millions of dollars for research into ALS.
Not the path he had chosen, not what anybody would choose. He married, had a child, and inspired the world with his courage. When he died last Monday at the age of 34, he left the world a better place.
Disease does not respect our plans or our dreams. How we handle health challenges and if we go public with our journey is a decision that is up to the individual. For Pete Frates and his family, their decision made a lasting impact.
All of us do not have the opportunity to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for research. We all can live our best lives inspired by this exceptional young man. We are humbled and inspired by what Pete Frates and his family and community have done.
He made a difference. Rest in peace.
“At the end of life, what really matters is not what we bought but what we built; not what we got but what we shared; not our competence but our character; and not our success, but our significance. Live a life that matters. Live a life of love.”
– Author unknown