When Alison Bennett learned that she was dying, the South Surrey woman was asked if there was anything she wanted to do, knowing that her time to do it was limited.
Her answer five years ago remains an inspiration.
“Alison said, no, she thought she already had the perfect life, and the perfect home, perfect husband and children, and all she wanted to do was have it last as long as possible,” friend Amanda Myring recalled of the conversation between Bennett and her sister-in-law, Rhonda Fuller.
“That in itself is amazing, that she was already living the way we all should live before she even knew that she was terminally ill.”
Bennett, a popular music teacher at Laronde Elementary until ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) forced her to quit in November 2009, died May 20 at Peace Arch Hospital. She was 50.
As family, friends, colleagues and former students prepare to say a final farewell at Victory Memorial Park Funeral Centre Saturday, Myring recalled a woman who refused to let a cruel disease kill her spirit.
“It definitely taught me to be grateful and not sweat the small stuff,” Myring said.
ALS is a progressive, incurable disease that destroys the body while leaving its victim’s mind unscathed. It attacks motor neurons that transmit electrical impulses from the brain to the muscles. The muscles eventually die, robbing patients of the ability to walk, talk and eventually, breathe.
Some sufferers live only three to six months after diagnosis; most live three to five.
Bennett was diagnosed in February 2009, after experiencing difficulty in her hands months before. ALS quickly stole her ability to talk, walk and swallow.
Myring said from the beginning, Bennett told her she saw ALS as a “dark force” that she pictured herself yelling at to stay away, and over the course of her short journey, she never gave up. Myring is certain it was Bennett’s attitude that enabled her to live as long as she did with the disease – long enough to share in the birth and first birthday of Myring’s daughter, Adrienne.
And it was Bennett’s husband, Dave’s, “amazing strength and patience” that kept the mother of two out of the hospital for all but two days of it, Myring said.
Saturday’s service gets underway at 1 p.m., and will include a song performed by former students of Bennett’s, along with speakers and a slideshow.
Victory Memorial is located at 14831 28 Ave. In lieu of flowers, donations to the ALS Society of B.C. are appreciated.
As further tribute to Bennett, dozens are expected to participate in next week’s Walk for ALS, June 15 at Bear Creek Park. The fundraiser has been a tradition in recent years, and Myring expects this year to be particularly meaningful to those who knew Bennett.