I felt the need to pen my thoughts, so to speak, as I prepare to climb a mountain for you. As I type this we have a little over 70 days until we depart for Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. As the climb up the world’s tallest free-standing mountain becomes a reality, I find myself nervous and a little afraid of this journey we are going on for you and ALS awareness.
It is in these moments that I think of you the most.
I think of how afraid you must be of this disease.
I think of how afraid you must be of the diagnosis, and the the time they say you have.
It tears me up, even as I type this. But yet you, my friend, have met this disease at every juncture with a courage that is not of this world. And I know there are days you don’t feel like being brave, but you are.
I marvel at that.
We marvel at that.
I still remember the day you changed my life. I called you to be a guest on my radio show in Birmingham for my segment “Pay it Forward Friday.” A segment where we honored people in the sports world that are doing more with their life.
Someone told me about you.
I’d like to find that person and hug them, by the way.
I thought given your diagnosis of ALS in June of 2010 that you would want to join me by phone. No, that was not “the anvil’s” way. You drove yourself and you got lost, calling to apologize profusely for being late. I remember thinking, “wow, the effort he was making and he’s apologizing to ME?” You came into the studio and there was an instant connection.Yes, Ill admit, the first emotion was pity. I didn’t want to feel that way; standing in front of me was a bruising fullback, famous for his time with the Crimson Tide and 8 years in the NFL with the Patriots and the Eagles, but you needed help opening your drink and turning up the headphone volume. I tried to stuff that emotion down, but you knew.
Something else was happening, too, though.
Your wit, your spark, your magnetism was shining through, beating the disease, as it does now. You had a twinkle in your eye, you still do. This monster of a disease will never take that from you. We went live. It was then that you said something that forever changed my life.
You said, “I don’t want you, or anyone else, to feel sorry for me. You could step off a curb tomorrow and get hit by a bus. At least I have a heads up on my life. So I live it. I hug my kids. I say Im sorry. I live an intentional life.”
The pity disappeared right there, my friend.
Am I sad?
But more than that I am honored to be to your friend. I am honored to be on the front lines fighting for you. I am honored that the good LORD knew what HE was doing that day when he intersected our paths, because you have forever changed my life.
I remember the second time you visited our show, I pulled off a little surprise. I had coach Gene Stallings call in, disguised as a regular caller. I was so excited about seeing you so happy that I was literally shaking. I’ll never forget how your face lit up when you heard that deep, gravelly voice. I said it in the interview (which you can find below), it was “radio gold!” What the listeners didn’t see that day was me crying like a baby as you two chatted. I was so happy to give back to you, in the tiniest way, because you give us all so much.
Since those days in Birmingham, I have moved onto Atlanta. I thought about getting involved in other efforts but you always came back to my heart. It was another chance meeting at the Super Bowl in New Orleans that sealed my life-long dedication to you. You did an interview with us at 92.9 The Game and told us about your event Super Bowl weekend. You offered me tickets and of course I accepted.
It was there that I met the head of your foundation, Tamara Alan.I spoke these word to her that night upon departing, “Im a lifer! You have me, like or not, for life in this fight for Kevin against ALS.”
Since then we have premiered your movie, “American Man” in Atlanta and trumpeted the cause of fighting this insidious disease. It was at that movie premiere that I got the meet the people that love you the most. I met your best friend and teammate, Craig Sanderson. He has never, not once, wavered in his support for you. We should all be so fortunate to have a best friend like that. I remember embracing him and crying happy tears( just to know him) after the event. I met your mama and your daddy, and your kids. What a wonderful and amazing family you have. They are in lockstep with you, facing the monster that is ALS with dignity and a true grit. I know this breaks their heart too, but they stay strong and love you. That love is palpable, my friend.
Kevin I can’t close without mentioning your valiant fight for all of your NFL brothers in the litigation against the NFL. You were the face for your brothers, you were their voice. I know they have thanked you. But I want to thank you again, my brave friend.
The last time I saw you speak you had these words for a rapt audience,”many people think I am dying. But that is not the case. Everyday you have a choice to make. Are you living or are you dying? People assume with this disease I am dying, that’s NOT the case. I am living people, every single day.”
There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.
You are that inspirational.
So know this my friend, every step up that 19,00 foot mountain will be for you.
If I tire, I will think of you.
If I want to quit, I will think of the courage you display every single day in the face of insurmountable odds.
I won’t quit because you don’t quit.
I will wear a smile because you do.
And by all means, I will not lose the twinkle in my eye.
I love you, Kevin Turner, and it is the honor of a lifetime to climb up that mountain for you. It is an honor to fight on the behalf of every person stricken with this disease and the people that love them. It is for you that I carry the flag of awareness and the goal of raising 100,000 for research.
We will find a cure for this disease, Kevin.
I will proudly carry your torch for my lifetime, and I will not quit.
-Rachel Joy Baribeau
If you would like more information on how to help us reach our goal of raising 100k for ALS research please visit ClimbforKevin.com and/or email Rachel@RachelBaribeau.com
May GOD bless you richly for your support.
PLEASE SHARE THIS BLOG POST. TOGETHER WE WILL FIND A CURE!