All love is special, but there are certain loves that take our breath away. Such is the love shared between Steve and Hope Dezember.
From their first date in early 2011, Steve and Hope knew they were meant for each other. Steve had prepared a candlelit dinner and had romantic music playing in the background and Hope couldn’t help but fall in love with him.
She also couldn’t help but notice when Steve struggled to open a bottle that evening. He was trembling so badly that the bottle slipped out of his hands and fell to the floor.
The trembling could have been chalked up to nerves, but Steve had experienced similar episodes before. Four months later he got the heartbreaking diagnosis – he had Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, commonly known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a devastating disease of the nervous system that weakens muscles and impacts physical function. The diagnosis is a death sentence – there is no known cure and life expectancy is only two to five years after diagnosis.
At only 28 years of age, Steve’s once bright future now seemed very bleak.
Two days after his diagnosis, Steve took Hope for a walk and explained his situation. He told her not to feel obligated to stay with him – he understood what that would mean.
Hope didn’t hesitate. “I’m not going anywhere,” she told him.
Two months later, they were walking down the aisle.
Because they knew they wouldn’t have much time together, the newlyweds decided to make the most of whatever time they had left. They embarked on an extended honeymoon trip across the U.S., making sweet memories as they went.
Sadly, Steve’s health declined rapidly. In January 2013, he lost the ability to speak, and in the following months he lost over 65 pounds. Eventually, his legs became paralyzed and he was forced to start using a wheelchair.
It was heartbreaking for Hope to watch her husband decline so quickly, but she never left his side and she never wavered.
“When I look at him, I think he is as handsome as ever,” she said. “He is still gorgeous. He doesn’t shave anymore, but I like it.”
The couple returned to their home in Georgia and Hope resigned from her job as a therapist so she could stay home and take care of Steve full-time.
While Steve’s body is failing him, his mind and heart have not. Though he can’t speak, he can still communicate with the help of computers.
He and Hope have even worked together to found a project called “DRIVE,” which allows Steve to continue his hobby of painting. In an incredibly unique art form, Steve drives over paint with his wheelchair and then uses the wheels as his brushes as he drives over a canvas. He sells his beautiful paintings to help pay for his medical bills.
Steve has now been living with ALS for six years, already beating the odds. He and Hope don’t know how much longer they have together, but they are making each day count and cherishing every moment together.
While they know they will probably have to say goodbye one day, they are still hoping and praying that a cure for ALS will be found in Steve’s lifetime.
While our hearts break for this incredible couple, we also come away from their story with a renewed mindfulness that we are not promised even our next breath. Let’s all remember to love those we are with, live the life we’ve been given to the fullest, and never take a moment for granted.
We all have a little good inside us. So share it!