Guest Post: My Father, My Hero

By: Amanda Lindquist

In Memory of Jeffrey Lynn Lindquist (August 21,  1957-August 3, 1998)

I’m really not sure if I will be able to put into words how amazing this man was as a son, a father, a brother, an uncle, a grandfather, a husband…and as a person.  He did not take ANY of these titles for granted and exemplified each one of them. 
My first testament to him begins in 1977 when, at barely 20 years old, he became my father.  Though this is rather common in today’s world, I see far more men not realize the magnitude of this ‘title’ until much later in life, often times after their children have grown.  Not my dad - he jumped in with both feet.  He took being a father very seriously.  While most men his age would have been more concerned with having fun and finding themselves, he worked his fingers to the bone to support his family.  He was not only wonderful to me at this young age.  He  also took great joy in spending time with his nephews, taking them hunting and fishing.

Following my parents’ divorce when I was young, my dad remarried, bringing my stepmother, Michelle, and her daughter, Shannon into my life.  Shannon was never my ‘step-sister’.  She is my SISTER.  She was never my father’s ‘step-daughter’.   She is his DAUGHTER.

My father’s story is best told in his own words, with my contributions to accompany it.  Here is a brief summary of his life taken from ALS “The Dialog” titled “How I Cope” that was published in 1992.

…In October of 1985, my family and I moved to Kansas City from Iowa after accepting a job at General Motors Fairfax.  My wife, Michelle, began working as a secretary shortly afterward.  We purchased a beautiful 2600 sq. ft. ranch home North of K.C. in August of 1986.  In the spring of ’87 I purchased one of my life long dreams, a nice pickup truck and a Champion Bass Boat to match.  So here I was, 30 years old and I had already accomplished most of my life long goals.  I had a beautiful wife, two wonderful daughters, my dream house only five miles from Smithville Lake, my boat, and a good job that allowed me to go fishing at least three times a week!  Man, I was on top of the world.  But little did I realize that as my life was on the upswing, my physical condition was on the downswing.

In the spring of 1987, following over a year of symptoms, my father was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.  ALS, short for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a progressive, fatal, neuromuscular disease that slowly robs the body of the ability to move, speak, swallow, and breathe.  The average life expectancy following diagnosis is two to five years.
…Of course, like everyone else, I was devastated.  I thought, “Why me?”  What did I do to deserve this, I’m being cheated, I won’t even get to see my girls graduate from High School or meet their husbands, or see my grandchildren!  But then, after a few weeks, I remembered what I had based my whole life on.  Something my 7th grade wrestling coach, Carl Peterson, inspired me with.  Whenever he sensed I was frustrated for not winning the weekly tryouts, he’d pull me aside and tell me ‘Whatever you do, don’t quit.  Anyone can be a winner!  All you’ve got to do is hold your head up, keep a positive attitude and give it 110%.  Just don’t quit!’.  Well, it worked.  By 9th grade I had the best record on our team, and it’s helped me accomplish many things in life.  Most importantly, the battle of coping with ALS.  I decided then to keep that attitude and continue on working, fishing, and enjoying every minute of life as long as possible.

In the spring of 1990, I sold my truck and boat because my arms and shoulders were getting pretty weak.  I retired from G.M.   In June, Michelle quit her job to be my caregiver, we sold our house and moved back to Iowa to be with our families for support.

I have so many wonderful memories following my father’s death sentence.  He did continue living life to the fullest in spite of everything.  He suffered a massive heart attack not too long after being back in Iowa.  It seemed that our family history of heart disease was rearing its ugly head on top of his illness.  Even after he became bed-ridden, he always had a smile on his face.  Though it was difficult for him to even speak, he would always ask every visitor how they were doing and what was going on in their lives.  When he became unable to do something, he would find things that he could still do rather than succumbing to self pity.

In 1995, three months after I graduated from high school, and two days after turning 18, I found out I was pregnant.  I was so terrified to tell my dad.  I didn’t want to disappoint him and add to his already challenging life.  When I did break the news to him, he tackled this head on with a loving heart as well.  He and Michelle organized and threw a baby shower for me.  On June 21, 1996, he and Michelle arrived in Spencer exactly 3 hours after Alyssa Rose was born.  I cherish the photos that were taken on that day with all of my heart.  This broken man, restricted to a wheelchair and battling for his life, beamed with pride and joy as his granddaughter was placed on his lap.

Here is another point in the story where my father’s own words are the only way to proceed.  Because he had many years to “prepare” for his death, he wrote an open letter that he updated often, titled “My Goodbye and Thank You to All”.  This letter was typed using a special computer program where his toe would touch a button, in effect, a mouse, to choose letters.  This was a pain-staking  and long process…but he persevered and recorded his words.
As I battled with my ALS and heart disease, I had taken many walks with God and no matter how far we walked, he would always walk me back home.  Well, the other day as we walked, he turned to me and said, We are closer to my home, let us spend the night there.  I smiled from ear to ear and said, I thought you’d never ask!

So please, rest assured I am in a far better place.  I am no longer suffering or in pain.  I am walking and talking again for I have been healed and am at home with the Lord.

Although my time here on Earth was shorter than I had planned it, I felt I was one of the luckiest and happiest men to have walked the Earth.

I owe that to two people I would like to give thanks to now, one last time.

First, to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for giving me the strength and courage to live a very happy and fulfilling life while contending with ALS.  As most of you know, I enjoyed life no matter where I was, whether I was working at work or in my boat fishing with a friend, or wheeling around in my wheelchair at ‘My Waterloo Days’ or laying paralyzed in bed while my granddaughter crawls all over me.

And second, to the one who made my happiness, my longevity, and my comfort all possible.  I give a last thank you to my best friend…my angel on Earth…my soul mate…my beautiful wife, Michelle.  She has taken the meaning of the wedding vows ‘in sickness and in health, till death do us part’ to a new level.  Michelle never left my side and displayed a strength, a devotion and a love that I know could never be matched on Earth by anyone.

I am sure many people have tried, but no one could even begin to comprehend what we went through.  Since August of 1992, she has slept no longer than 2 or 3 hours at one time.  She had to get up and roll me in bed every two hours because of the pain and to prevent bed sores.  Not to mention the cool washcloths to the forehead and rubbing my stomach because I was so sick from my feedings.  Or the countless times suctioning my secretions as I lay choking.  Then of course, never forgetting the many nights kneeling at my bedside as we said our goodbyes knowing for sure this would be the night.  Day in and day out, day after day after day, and not one time did she ever complain to me for having to do it.  God really blessed me when he gave her to me.

You may say, how on Earth could he feel lucky after what he went through…well having Michelle alone could be the answer to that but when I was first told I had ALS I was 28 years old and given a 3-5 year life expectancy.

I didn’t think I would see Shannon and Amanda graduate from high school, meet my son-in-laws, play with my grandchildren or catch that elusive big bass I’d been chasing for years. 

Well, 4 years later in 1990, I not only caught 1 but 3 big bass in the last spring that I fished.

In 1994 I rolled into Columbus High School and attended Shannon’s graduation.
In 1995 I rolled into Spencer High School and attended Amanda’s graduations.

In 1996, to top it off, I was back in Spencer holding our precious 3 hour old granddaughter, Alyssa Rose.

On July 12, 1998 I layed in bed beside Michelle with a new bride and groom, our daughter Amanda and new son-in-law sitting beside as we watched their wedding video from the previous day.

So, to actually accomplish my goals when statistically I should not have seen any of them made me feel very lucky and happy.”

The rest of this letter is too personal to continue sharing.

My father took his last breath on August 3, 1998, in his bedroom, with Michelle, Shannon and me all by his side.

All my life I knew that my DAD was incredible.  In 2009, I got to spend some time with one of his co-workers from GM, Jerry, while visiting Kansas City.  I remember stepping out of the car being greeted by Jerry who took a step back and a big breath before saying “boy do you look like your daddy”.  I spent the evening hearing story after story of how wonderful of a MAN my father was.  He talked of how smart and talented he was.  He gave me examples of how kind and caring he was to the other men he worked with.  Jerry had tears in eyes throughout the whole evening as he recounted his memories of my dad and told me again and again how much he loved and admired him.

As the years go by and my sister and I approach different ages, we are always shocked to sit back and reflect on what Dad was going through at this age or that age.  How by the time he was our ages now, 34 and 35, he had been through so much and was living on borrowed time.  This man instilled in my sister and me so many wonderful attributes.  His strength, courage, perseverance, kindness, and love can be matched by no other.

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy.

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