Today I learned that a wonderful friend of mine passed away after suffering from ALS. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the same disease that afflicts physicist Stephen Hawking, can attack the body slowly, as in Hawking’s case, or more quickly, as with Alicia. She was diagnosed in 2012. During her illness Alicia wrote the book A Rock Fell on the Moon. It is the story of her dad, the convicted mastermind of the Great Yukon Silver Ore Heist. Alicia raced to complete the manuscript before her typing muscles withered. The book, which I’m reading now and enjoying immensely, was published last last summer. By that time Alicia was unable to speak. Anna Comfort, managing editor at Harbour Publishing, which published A Rock Fell on the Moon, told me on the phone today that Alicia never lost her enormous spirit, and she never stopped traipsing through the province attending book events. Her husband Ben Parfitt and daughter Charlotte were at her side.
I could tell you a lot about my memories of Alicia. A favorite one happened when we attended journalism school together. We were asked to do a presentation on Baltimore journalist H.L. Mencken, and instead of the usual slides and academic talk, we wrote and performed a skit. Alicia was the sarcastic Mencken, and I was his demure wife. We dressed in period costume and drank real wine on the set, to the dismay of our startled instructor. We lost a few marks but we gained many laughs.
What does this have to do with hepatitis C? Maybe nothing, but maybe the fact that despite a daunting diagnosis, we should face life creatively, with enthusiasm. Like Alicia did.