A widow and two children of a man who died from Lou Gehrig’s disease planted a tree on the Digby waterfront to honour his memory and to raise awareness of the illness that killed him.
Karen McMann and two of her four children were in Digby on Thursday, July 13 to plant a tree and unveil a plaque in memory of her husband Paul.
The tree is beside Digby’s visitor information centre on the Admiral’s Walk.
Paul, a history teacher outside of Toronto, was diagnosed over a year ago with ALS, an incurable motor neuron disease that robs your ability to carry out day-to-day tasks, and is eventually fatal.
Paul died this April. One of his wishes was to visit all 10 provinces and three territories in Canada; a wish he was unable to fulfill.
His wife, Karen and two of her children, JC and Rayelle decided to travel across the country starting in Newfoundland and planting trees as they go.
Rayelle was wearing his father’s shoes and made a footprint in the freshly turned dirt around the tree.
“He wanted to set foot in each province,” said Karen. “And this way he will.”
Karen contacted various communities to see if they would be interested in helping with their journey.
Their initial contact in Digby was Tom Ossinger, town CAO, who recently lost a friend to the same disease.
“It is a terrible disease and devastating for families,” says Ossinger. “One minute you’re walking around like you and me and then almost overnight you can barely move.”
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, attacks nerve cells and pathways in the brain and spinal cord. The muscles associated with these nerves waste away from not being used. People with the disease gradually lose the ability to move their limbs and trunk, then they lose they ability to speak, swallow and eventually even breathe.
Most people live two to five years after being diagnosed; two to three Canadians die every day of the disease; there are currently over 60 people in Nova Scotia with ALS.