Yakima, Wash., sheriff dying of Lou Gehrig's disease gets sympathetic treatment


I sure do appreciate it when smaller papers put out a good religion story and the Yakima Herald (out of central Washington) does not disappoint with its latest.

The theme, a dying sheriff who has Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis -- also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease -- is done with generous dollops of the 58-year-old officer’s faith. That is what's keeping him going after getting some very bad news.

I reported a few weeks ago about an imam who has the same disease. No matter where you are on the theological spectrum, the thought of this living death would test the strongest believer.

Early on, readers learn that he has three to five years to live and was diagnosed in December. He has been in the area much of his life, starting from when his father, a Grace Brethren pastor, was sent to a local church.

Fortunately, the reporter asked the sheriff what’s keeping him going.

Facing death is challenging but he believes God and friends will look after his family.
“You can throw your arms up and say oh my God ... You can quit and start blaming God, or you can try to live the way in accordance, in a way you’d want someone else to handle the challenge. I don’t want to be the guy who says you should handle it this way and then do something different,” Winter said.
“Even though from the human side of this it’s hard to see how anything good can come out of this, but I know God loves me and my family. I’m not worried about dying. I’m not worried about where I’m going.”

At present, he’s feeling fine but that may not last long. Interestingly, he’s not asking for healing --  but for light at the end of his tunnel.

He also talks to his dad, Chuck Winter, who helps him understand that God has a plan even though humans cannot always see it. Chuck Winter is now the senior pastor at the Grace Brethren Church in Sunnyside.
“I’m a Christian, so I don’t believe this was a surprise to God,” Winter said. “I don’t believe God was napping and this caught him by surprise. I believe there’s a plan even though I don’t see the whole plan. There has got to be some good that comes out of this at some point.”

Just one or two complaints: We know what church Winter’s dad pastors but which house of worship does Winter attend?

Obviously, it would have been good to talk to his pastor. Are church members making any plans to help the sheriff once things start getting worse, physically? I would have liked more quotes from his family and church.

I would have also liked a quote from Winter's dad, who took the above photo of his son being sworn in as sheriff. 

One tantalizing fact I would have also liked to have heard more about:

Winter said he has no family history of the disease but suspects it may be related to his military service. Those who serve in the military are twice as likely to become ill with ALS than the general public, studies show.

What's that about? What are military personnel exposed to that would cause this kind of disease? You can read more about this awful trend in this CNN story, here on NBC and this from the ALS Association.

I hope the Herald keeps on this story and furnishes us with more details about how this sheriff faces his mortality as his days become shorter and shorter.

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