Julia Dyer has served patients at the ALS Association of Texas for the past 12 years. As she moves on to pursue new opportunities, we wanted to take this time to thank Julia for her service to people with ALS and their caregivers. She wrote this farewell letter to the ALS community that beautifully describes the impact of her time with ALS Texas. Thank you, Julia.
The ALS community is unlike any other. I’m sure many people say that about an organization or group of people they completely admire and love, but really. Over the past 11 and a half years, I have learned some pretty valuable life lessons from people who were also learning as they went along. Not to mention, most would probably agree they had just received the worst news of their life. I witnessed families come together and rally harder than I’ve ever seen and show unwavering amounts of support and love.
My book of life lessons began when I was 17 years old and started working for the ALS Association of Texas in San Antonio. I was a senior in high school, and I didn’t know much about ALS or Lou Gehrig, but I knew I wanted to help people in any way I could.
I can remember the first person with ALS I met – his name was Don Taylor. He was the funniest, happiest, most family-oriented man I had met. He always had a smile on his face and was ready to tell the best jokes at any time. His family was just as great. For the first time, I witnessed exactly what ALS was capable of. I met Don at the beginning stages of his diagnosis – so, I watched him lose his speech, then move to a scooter and eventually an electric wheelchair. Despite all the things that were happening to Don, he never lost his humor. He would create presentations on his communication device and have the whole room cracking up. He taught me that no matter how difficult or trying a situation might be, there is still time for laughter.
During my seventh year of working with ALS Texas, I met Justin. Justin Greenwald was a fun, charismatic, outgoing and goofy young guy, who I met at his very first clinic appointment and support group meeting . Justin and I became great friends, sharing a common interest in music, jokes, and, well…beer. He was extremely witty and seemed to know ALL of the things. Justin and I would schedule regular movie nights, but we’d ended up playing countless songs and singing our hearts out as if no one was around to listen to our cracking, out-of-tune voices. We were always brainstorming how we could raise the most money and awareness for ALS and which famous wrestler we could contact to help make this happen (if you knew Justin, you knew his love of wrestling). Justin taught me so many things during our time together, whether he knew it or not. But above all, he showed me the true meaning of patience and acceptance, and for that, I am thankful.
I truly believe that working alongside people living with ALS and their families has made me the person I am today. I have experienced some of the greatest losses of my life, but also some of the greatest gains through the experiences I was faced with. I’ve lost more people throughout my years with ALS Texas than most people would in a lifetime, and I know each of them by name. I know their families. The fight within these individuals and their families was and is enormous, and it was the fuel to my fire. I will always remember and support my family within the ALS community, and I truly believe a treatment and cure will come soon. So as I start a new chapter in my career, I want to thank you all for teaching me the most valuable lessons possible and for letting me into your lives with open arms. I am forever grateful.
Your forever friend,