Today is my 36th birthday. It also marks three years since my dad lost his battle with ALS. I’m not going to pretend that this blog post contains an amazing message or his highly philosophical. (Spoiler – it’s neither.)
Three years later. On my birthday. Three years later I am still trying to grasp what that means. As a skeptic…as a contrarian…as a non-practicing atheist…I have regularly thought about that day. I have thought about that day for three years. Sometimes I think that it was, all things considered, the best birthday present ever. Other days I think it’s the cruelest joke. Still there are some days that I don’t believe it.
The only thing that I do know is that I will never take anyone for granted. I am fortunate to be surrounded by amazing people. You all are amazing. Don’t forget that.
Rest in Peace, Pops. I miss you. And thank you, Mom. You’ve been so strong and supportive through this crazy journey. Oh yeah…Amy & Brian….I love you’se guys.
We spent countless hours making up stories, cooking (mostly) delicious food, watching YouTube videos, and pretending I we were contestants on Chopped. Needless to say, it was a sad day when M and X moved away 4 years ago. Fortunately, I was able to make a quick trip to San Antonio this past weekend for X’s 9th birthday party. My short trip was filled with durian, roller skating, and bad movies (I’m looking at you Nicholas Cage).
The highlight of this trip was clearly the durian. How many 9 year olds do you know that want a durian birthday cake? That’s what I thought. Happy birthday X. You’re the raddest 9 year old in all the land.
Decade of the Durian: a photo essay
X and her birthday durian.
We tried to bust open the durian with our teeth. It didn’t work.
Then M tried…unsuccessfully.
Apparently knives are good for cutting things.
My accomplice in durian fabrication.
We ain’t pros, but we’re pretty good.
Durian rind or Bowser’s remains?
Save some for the cake!
Half way through the vanilla-durian cake.
It’s true. The durian cake was more popular than the chocolate cake. Rad.
As you may know, Ken Lempa, my dad, lost his battle with ALS on December 12, 2013 – my 33rd birthday. In 2014 I ran the Chicago Marathon in his honor. This year I will be running it for the 3rd time. My participation as a member of Team ALS is extremely important. The dedicated staff of the Greater Chicago Chapter of the ALS Association has become a second family to me. They were there when Dad was diagnosed, when we were grieving, and when he passed. Their tireless effort in support of pALS (people with ALS) and for medical research is nothing short of amazing.
Please help me raise money to support this amazing organization by clicking on the above graphic.
This was originally posted at Run Haven.
Dealing with a chronic illness in your family is never easy. Unfortunately, this was the position I was placed in a few years ago. In 2011, my dad was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). It was at this time when I picked up running.
Running had been the reason I quit the shot-put team when I was in high school. Years later, my brother convinced me to give the sport another shot. We ran together when we were both visiting our parents to help our mom take care of our dad. I was looking for a way to spend time outside, exercise and relieve stress. I’m pretty sure that his objectives were the same. Over time, I learned that I actually enjoyed running — and it made me feel good.
My dad died on December 12, 2013 — my 33rd birthday. Fortunately, I was able to tell him that I ran two 5Ks. Unfortunately, he wasn’t around to learn that I completed four half marathons and the Chicago Marathon (as a member of Team ALS) in 2014.
Running has proven to be a great stress reliever for me. Through it, I challenge myself in ways that I never thought possible. This year, I am again running the Chicago Marathon. Next year, I plan on running a 50-mile ultramarathon, to be followed in 2017 by a 100-miler. Every step that I run, I think about those who struggle to walk even a single step. I will keep pushing myself because I can.
I’m Chris Lempa, and this is #whyirun.
#whyirun is a digital video series produced by Elliot Johnson and Andy White.
Random thought. . .
The best thing that Derrick Jensen ever wrote was Premise Four in his book Endgame:
Premise Four: Civilization is based on a clearly defined and widely accepted yet often unarticulated hierarchy. Violence done by those higher on the hierarchy to those lower is nearly always invisible, that is, unnoticed. When it is noticed, it is fully rationalized. Violence done by those lower on the hierarchy to those higher is unthinkable, and when it does occur is regarded with shock, horror, and the fetishization of the victims.
Premise Four provides a great starting point if we want to understand what is happening in Ferguson, Missouri.
“Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about a bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.” – Lou Gehrig
Dad and Chris at the New Comiskey. This was the last live White Sox game we attended.
Short version – I am running the Chicago Marathon in honor of Ken Lempa, my dad. He was a runner and a victim of ALS. Please support my efforts to find a cure for ALS. Donation may be made online (http://webchicago.alsa.org/site/TR/Runs/Chicago?px=3557317&pg=personal&fr_id=10382) or by contacting me (8 lempa 8 (at) gmail . com).
I ran my first official race this past Thanksgiving (2013). It was a fun Pi-K (3.14 miles. . .get it?) that involved a lot of pie. It was also two weeks before my 33 birthday. . .and my Dad’s passing. It was very important for me to run this race for two reasons. First I wanted to make sure that my Dad – a runner up until he could no longer stand on his own – would be able to hear about my first race. The second reason had to do with a memory. The first race that I ever saw my Dad run was a Turkey Trot. I remember that he gave me the sweatshirt from the run. A sweatshirt that I proudly wore for years.
Dad’s two year battle with ALS (Lou Gehrig‘s Disease) ultimately took his life and led to emotional distress for those he knew, but he always made it a point to encourage me. This was especially true when it came to my then new found love of running. He was one of the only people that didn’t laugh when I told him that my ultimate goal was to run a 100 mile ultra-marathon. In fact, his response was to tell me to get a good pair of shoes and drink a lot of water. I now run in top notch running shoes and carry at least 20 ounces of water on every run.
Shortly after Dad died I joined a half marathon training program. I knew that this would help clear my mind and keep me physically active. It worked so well that I then signed up for a marathon training program. Of course if you are in a marathon training program you also need to sign-up for a marathon. It was around this time that I was approached by my good friends at the Chicago ALS Association about joining Team ALS’s Chicago Marathon team. I thought about it for a few days and eventually decided that there was no better way to honor my Dad than to run a marathon in his hometown while fighting to cure the disease that killed him.
A friend recently asked me how I dealt with the pain inflicted on my family by this terrible disease. I told her that I still try to look for the positive aspect of even the most negative situation. I don’t think my Dad would want us to be sad. I think he would want us to enjoy life and do what we can to make the world a better place. Please join me as I support the ALS Association and every individual who has been touched by this awful disease.
Defeat ALS! Join Team Lempa
On December 12, 2013 I received a phone call from my mom while my co-workers were wishing me a happy 33rd birthday. My Dad had lost a 2.5 year battle with ALS (aka amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Lou Gehrig’s Disease). While his passing wasn’t unexpected, we didn’t think it would happen on my birthday. Needless to say I hopped in my car and started driving. And driving.
This trip was nothing new -hell I once road a 125cc scooter from Lawrence, KS to Chicago – but it was different. It was both longer and quicker. Further and shorter. Multiple text messages from my brother reminded me to be safe while at the same time telling me that I needed to get home sooner. Rachel checked in to make sure that I was OK as did a few of my closest friends. Gaslight Anthem’s ’59 Sound was on repeat.
The drive itself was mostly a blur. I do remember laughing and crying as long lost memories formed a mental collage. When I arrived in Berwyn I was greeted by my Mom and brother. We hugged, laughed, and cried.
Three months later it is still hard to believe that our family of five is now a family of four. This experience has both weakened and strengthened us as a family. I am grateful for my friends and family that supported me throughout this ordeal and have checked in on me afterwards. I might not always say it, but I love and appreciate you.
I am also extremely thankful for the ALS Association Greater Chicago Chapter. Without them I don’t know how we would have made it through this ordeal. They provided equipment, guidance, and emotional support. Additionally the ALS Association also supports research to fight ALS and discover a cure.
Last year I captained the top fundraising team in the Walk to Defeat ALS. This year we have reformed Team Lempa and are again raising money to find a cure to this horrific disease. You can support us by clicking here: http://webchicago.alsa.org/goto/ChrisLempa2014
PS – I will be participating in a number of runs throughout the year. I will use these runs to raise money for the ALSA and to raise awareness of this horrific disease.
Great Mullein is one of my favorite plants.
There are two ways to join Team Lempa as we Walk to Defeat ALS. One is as a Virtual Walker and the other is as a Fundraising Walker.
Step 1 – Go to http://webchicago.alsa.org/goto/TeamLempa
Step 2 – Click on Join Team
Step 3 – Choose either Virtual Walker or Fundraising Walker.
Choose Virtual Walker if you will not be able to attend the actual walk but would like to help us fundraise.
Choose Fundraising Walker if you will be able to walk.
Step 4 – Fill out the rest of the information.
Step 5 – DONE!
It’s that simple. Once you have joined Team Lempa we ask that you help us raise money for the ALS Association. As some of you know, this organization has been extremely helpful for my entire family.
Please contact me if you have any questions. My email is 8 lempa 8 (at) gmail . com (remove the spaces and use the @ symbol).
As some of you know my Dad has been diagnosed with ALS. On May 18th my family will be participating in the Greater Chicago Walk to Defeat ALS. I am hoping to raise $1,000 to support the ALS Association and the work they do for individuals and their families that are living with ALS. Please click on this link to make a donation.
My Mom and I also invite you to join Team Lempa. If you are interested, please contact one of us.
More details will be posted on the attached link and as well as on this website. If you are on Facebook, please consider joining Team Lempa on Facebook.
About the ALS Association:
Established in 1985, The ALS Association is the only national non-profit organization fighting Lou Gehrig’s Disease on every front. By leading the way in global research, providing assistance for people with ALS through a nationwide network of chapters, coordinating multidisciplinary care through certified clinical care centers, and fostering government partnerships, The Association builds hope and enhances quality of life while aggressively searching for new treatments and a cure.
As the preeminent ALS organization, The Association leads the way in research, care services, public education, and public policy — giving help and hope to those facing the disease. The Association’s nationwide network of chapters provides comprehensive patient services and support to the ALS community. The mission of The ALS Association is to lead the fight to treat and cure ALS through global research and nationwide advocacy, while also empowering people with Lou Gehrig’s Disease and their families to live fuller lives by providing them with compassionate care and support.