ALS KEPT HIM FROM HIKING, BUT IT COULDN'T STOP HIM FROM BEING A DAD
Ben Thomas Shows How Much Parents Love Their Children
Ben Thomas (32) of St. George, Utah and his wife Jena shared a love of the outdoors. They were fond of activities like running, hiking, long bike rides and traveling to new places near and far.
In the spring of 2010, Ben noticed that his left leg wasn’t cooperating and spasms in his shoulders and upper arms followed soon after. He visited his family doctor and after numerous tests was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease).
Creating Memories That Last a Lifetime
For Ben, having ALS meant that every moment spent with his wife, Jena, and 3-year-old daughter, Emmerson, was precious. He courageously faced his new reality head on. He had a disease that took him away from his young daughter much too soon, but rather than let that thought get him down – he created memories she could hold onto long after he’d gone. By writing a series of letters to his beloved daughter Emmerson, it allowed him to continue to be there for his daughter – for every milestone – even after he’d passed.
Writing Meaningful Letters For His Daughter
The illness had helped him and his wife realize what mattered most in life. “Our whole understanding of [life] changed,” she said, “things just started to mean more.” Cherishing life, love and every moment they spent together as a family was important.
Thomas had always been an optimistic person and was driven to find the humor in everyday life while focusing on the things they had and the things they could do together.
That’s when Ben told Jena he wanted to write letters to his only daughter Emmerson. She loved the idea.
“Ben has so much personality. I think his perspective as a father and his love for Emmerson is just overwhelming.” she said.
In the letters, he talked about ALS, but focused more on all the little things he’d cherished. Jena shared “he talked about little things that happened that day, ‘Emmerson you did this today. You’re crawling. This is the word you said.’ It just made him so happy.”
More Than Just Letters From Dad
Aside from writing letters to his daughter at her current age, Thomas gave her candid advice to read as she gets older. He’d also written his personal history so that Emmerson could get to know what her father was like at different ages and what he’d seen and done throughout his life. His wife Jena hoped her husband’s upbeat attitude would also inspire their daughter when she reads her father’s memories of their family.
“It might be painful for a little while, or difficult and sad – but we believe in an afterlife.” Ben shared in a letter. “We’ll be together again… and we’ll think, ‘Remember when you had ALS? What were we so worried about?’.”
And in the short time they had left together, probably his most poignant message to his little Emmerson was one of happiness. Thomas penned “Happiness is a choice. People can take things from you, or your health can be taken from you, but you can always choose to be happy.”