I am Laura Mazurak
a family member of someone we've lost to ALS
District of Columbia
My dad, George, loved to run. He ran at twilight, when the chorus frogs sang in the wetland near our house. Sometimes he ran in the morning before work — alone or with friends. Never with music, and always outside. He told me that it was his prayer, his daily meditation. Dad taught me how to breathe when I ran. Slowly in and slowly out at an even tempo. He showed me how breath carries you down the trail, and can buoy you through discomfort and exhaustion.
Breath isn’t just life — it’s gratitude. Every inhale and exhale is a quiet hallelujah for your existence. When my dad could no longer run, he walked with forearm crutches. Each step required so much effort that his face would twist in a pained smile — exhausted from the effort, yet grateful to still be on the move. A year passed this way, before even those steps became too much. In the final months, when a hospital bed occupied the dining room and dad’s clothes swallowed his skeletal frame, he would spend hours on the back porch, eyes tracking the songbirds who congregated at his feeders. Especially then, my dad’s breath carried him through the day.
I write all of this to say that my dad was so much more than this disease or a number. He was a runner. He was a reporter and a writer whose bookshelves were lined with poetry anthologies and David McCullough. He was a deeply spiritual man who saw the beauty in every sunrise, every bird song, every beautifully ripe tomato in his garden. He showed me how to move through this world with such grace, even when the hand you’ve been dealt isn’t what you envisioned. George is everywhere to me. I feel his presence when I walk the dog at dawn and hear Cat Stevens’ “Morning Has Broken.” I think of him when I smell coffee and cinnamon and newsprint. I carry him with me, in each breath and step that I’ve been given.