Don was/is a very special person. He came to Earth that way; sensitive, kind, creative, compassionate, humble and funny.
Don wanted very much to benefit the world through kindness. He was able to do this to a great extent with me, but others abused him mercilessly for what they viewed as weakness. Eventually, this world view undermined him so much that his body succumbed to his dreaded ALS experience.
I have lovely memories of Don as he actively participated in my childhood for the purpose of acting as a good father. Our father was consistently rejecting, self-absorbed and unavailable emotionally and used me as his special scapegoat which particularly enraged Don. Don on the other hand was unfailingly kind, inclusive and supportive of me.
A memory of an unusual kind happened when I tearfully left my Zen Master whom I had been studying with for two years.
The situation started off in a strange way for me, I had no intention of moving on but began having dreams of me traveling to the mountains. (I am open to guidance from dreams and pay close attention to them, so I was wondering what this foretold for my future). A few days later our Aunt from Alaska, Aunt Evelyn, came through town needing a second driver to drive her car with her to Alaska because she had developed a medical condition, water on the knee she called it. This condition did not allow her to push the gas pedal on the car for very long at a time. Alaska is a long way from the Bay Area in California so I knew she really needed me.
I volunteered but to my dismay my Zen Master said if I went to Alaska, I would be out of the Zen Group! Since I had the mountain dreams, I felt this was true Guidance from my Divine so I elected to go. I was then asked to turn in my coveted robe signifying the group.
Don came up with a solution that actually had me smiling through my tears, He went to the attic and got a beautifully wrapped gift box, with shiny expensive paper for the lid and placed my clean, ironed robe in it for delivery. A poignant gift example, elucidation, back to the Master for letting me go. I felt it was such a perfect illustration of enlightened modeling for my Zen Master. It made me laugh in appreciation for Don.
Don, kindness personified… I have many other memories of his special consideration for me. I was his special little sister and he always acted with special understanding and love for me. This actually continues to this day, which you will see…
By Catherine Frink
Life delivers hardship to the sweetest people, doesn’t it? This happened to my beloved brother when ALS consumed him.
ALS is a disease that prohibits signals from reaching the body; all movement stops, except that the person can blink their eyes. However, their mind is absolutely clear, so they are aware of it all.
I lived 2,500 miles away when I heard that this was Don’s horrifying fate. I desperately prayed to ease my brother’s progressively sad days. The answer came to send him daily letters on pretty paper, allowing him to share my life without writing back. I purchased a beautiful hardcover journal with lines and lovely drawings, adding scissors and stamped envelopes, and tucked them into my car to write while on the move.
At the same time, my brother’s first love, Pat, whom I knew and loved, also found out Don had ALS. She received the same idea: to send him a letter every day. Pat sent memories from their relationship, clinical trial information, and natural supplements. Don wrote back to her through hospice volunteers who came to help. We were not aware we were both writing him at the same time.
Don eventually died, and a few weeks later I received a letter from Pat, which told me how Don had come to Pat, telling her that our writing to him gave him a wonderful quality of life for his last horrific years. He confessed that before we started writing to him, he had spent his days contemplating how to commit suicide.
He asked if Pat would contact me and if we would make it our life’s mission to tell this story of writing daily so that fellow ALS sufferers – or anyone with an isolating, debilitating disease – would receive the same love he had.
Don said because of our writing, he knew we loved him and he loved us. He was included and had something special to look forward to every day.
Pretty paper, envelopes, a book of stamps and willingness is all it takes to change horror into heartfelt quality of life, according to Don. Simple, loving, kind: a mission anyone can do.
Catherine Frink loves to dance and paint, and her joy is to spread Don’s Writing Mission through telling the story to every person who will listen. She does bunches of push-ups when she feels like it, and once in a while, she’ll even do up to 115 without stopping.