A couple of years ago my dad introduced me to a friend of his he met at the local coffee shop. The fellow’s name was Darryl.
Honestly, what I noticed first was what was wrong with him: He walked with a severe limp, his speech was slurred, his face distorted, his motor skills were affected, and he couldn’t hear that well. Our hands missed on the first few handshake attempts.
But what I noticed next — and will always remember — was everything that was right about him. This guy was incredible. He had troubles, but they didn’t seem to trouble him. His life-is-wonderful outlook was piercing. His optimism became his defining trait. The guy was a fighter and didn’t let anyone tell him he couldn’t do something. He shared his inspiring story at schools, businesses, and prisons. He volunteered his time at his church and local hospital.
Darryl was about 39 when I met him. At 24 he was diagnosed with malignant, terminal brain cancer of the cerebellum and brain stem. The surgery would knock out his memory, movement, and speech. If he survived at all they said he probably wouldn’t walk or talk again. He was told he’d spend his time in a nursing home. But somehow about 15 years later I was meeting him at a coffee shop.
As these rare but amazing stories go, he had the surgery and beat his prognosis. He persevered through grueling rehab, dealt with demoralizing setbacks, but pushed on. He eventually regained his independence, the ability to move around on his own, speak, and live a mostly-normal life.
He wrote a book called Force a Miracle about his experience. Mike Ditka, a personal hero of Darryl’s, got ahold of an early manuscript and was so moved he wrote the foreword.
The book is pretty amazing. You’ll empty your eyes reading it.
Unfortunately about six weeks ago his tumor returned. It grew rapidly and was inoperable. On October 31st Darryl passed away (guestbook). We’ll miss everything about him. He was a great man. Donations in his memory can be made to the American Brain Tumor Association.