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Final Words

Final Words

Nearly a year ago, I had the great good fortune to be assigned a story on Mike Yochim. Yochim was a park ranger in Yellowstone National Park for many years before he was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. When I met him last fall, he was in a wheelchair and had lost the use of his entire body except for his eyes. He could still blink and look up and down and from side to side. But otherwise, he was entombed within his own body, his mind still as alert, intelligent and witty as it had always been. Mike was using his last strength to write a book about how climate change is affecting the national parks in much the same way that ALS had corroded his body.

It was an honor to meet Mike and his family and I was profoundly moved by their strength and courage. Mike died peacefully before my feature story, Final Words, came out. I think of him often and am still inspired by his patience, fortitude and commitment to contributing to the healing of this world right up until he passed. In this time of cataclysm, I am buoyed by examples like his. My story appears in the fall issue of National Parks magazine.