(Nashville, TN)–A special interactive section on the New York Times website known as Healthguide Patient Voices features an interview with Beth Chilcoat, widow of David Chilcoat who died of ALS (a.k.a. as Lou Gehrig’s Disease) in 2006. Beth’s story is one of only six interviews conducted with ALS patients and family members for the Healthguide Patient Voices: ALS feature. Beth recently compiled the new book, NOBODY TELLS A DYING GUY TO SHUT UP, from her husband’s personal journal kept during his three-year struggle with the disease that eventually took his life. (LINK: NY Times Patient Voices)
Mentioned in the New York Times piece, NOBODY TELLS A DYING GUY TO SHUT UP takes the reader from David Chilcoat’s diagnosis (“Today we really got a kick in the shorts”) to the end (“Needless to say, I was confused. At times, when things do not make sense, it is hard to know what is really true.”). After grieving for her husband for over a year, Beth made the decision to take David’s 1000-plus page journal and edit it into book form to aid other families who may be going through a similar crisis.
“The book is only able to include a small fraction of the moment by moment answers to prayers that we experienced as we tried to leave this horror in God’s hands and trust Him to give us what we needed,” says Beth. “David kept his journal online and it helped so much to hear people’s reactions and encouragement. At first, we appreciated the fact that we could see God using our pain for good as it seemed to encourage and challenge other people’s faith. Then one day, it dawned on us how much we were being strengthened by the need to focus on what God was doing in our lives in order to write weekly about our journey.”
For more than a decade, the Chilcoats worked with Young Life, a worldwide ministry dedicated to introducing adolescents to Jesus Christ and helping them grow in their faith. David and Beth helped to establish the Young Life chapter in the Columbus, Ohio area that today is headed by one of their sons, Michael. David later went to law school and practiced law for over 25 years before his diagnosis of ALS in 2003. Together, the Chilcoats raised a family of four children and have nine grandchildren.
Though Beth had entered the publishing world before as a cookbook author, she was reluctant to take on the challenge of editing David’s journal that was read by thousands of people across the globe. Faced with the reality of death, David chronicled the experience of living in the midst of dying, revealing a candid account of parallel progression — physical decay and spiritual growth. In compiling the book, Beth chose the title from a phrase that David used often: NOBODY TELLS A DYING GUY TO SHUT UP. It began as a difficult process to relive the three-year ordeal, but the book eventually became a healing balm for Beth.
“One thing we learned through the process was not to spend our energy protecting one another or keeping our thoughts and fears to ourselves,” says Beth. “We needed all our energy just to cope and get through every day. We agreed early to tell it like it was. We told friends and family to ask us how we were doing only if they really wanted to know. We didn’t have the energy for pretense. We shared everything candidly with one another. It wasn’t easy at times, but it definitely was the only way we could do it.
“From the worst days of intense pain and fear to the days when we were able to laugh in spite of it all, this book is a forthright, honest struggle of a man wrestling with his own death. And I pray it becomes a beacon of hope and encouragement to people who face equally dire circumstances. The reality is we are all on a journey toward death. The only difference for us was that Dave and I had a defined timetable. And we did the best we could to make the most of our time together.”
Beth was recently a seminar speaker at the annual Xenos Summer Institute where authors and speakers such as Kay Arthur and Joni Eareckson-Tada have appeared. Beth is currently scheduling seminars entitled “Life in the Valley” to help equip people who face difficult challenges. For more information, visit: www.BethChilcoat.com