It’s hard to hold back the tears as I share Steve Gleason‘s story.
Once an NFL player for the New Orleans Saints, the 36-year-old former football star is now battling a terminal illness. Well known for his blocked punt in a 2006 game that became a symbol of recovery in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, Steve revealed in 2011 that he was diagnosed with ALS.
Often referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.
Basically, it’s a death sentence.
I am all too well acquainted with this degenerative disease that traps a person’s mind and soul into a motionless body — my own father died of ALS at the age of 54.
In a new video showcasing Steve’s daily struggles, the former NFL star interviews the band members of Pearl Jam.
Not only does he sit down with one of the greatest bands of all time, more importantly Steve has put together a video journal for his young son Rivers. Among his wisdom and fatherly advice, Steve showcases his last days in hopes of providing his son with some guidelines for life.
“If I think too much, I can get overwhelmed by the grace in which we live,” is a sampling of Steve’s wise words in this powerful tribute for his son.
The former athlete says he’s felt a deep connection to the music of Pearl Jam since his high school days in the ’90s. Prior to releasing their new album Lightning Bolt, the famous Seattle-based band asked Steve to interview them.
Calling their music the “soundtrack” of his life, Steve first spoke with the entire band, then with the band’s lead singer Eddie Vedder.
When Steve explains that he’s making a video journal for his son, he asks the iconic singer – who grew up without a father – what he wishes he knew about his own dad.
A tearful Vedder says, “That’s a great question, and coming from you, I couldn’t appreciate it more.”
“I would have wanted to know if he loved me and how much,” Vedder admits. “The other nice thing would’ve been to know what it is like to grow up to be a good man. I feel like I have to figure that stuff out on my own. A few guidelines would’ve helped.”
Vedder goes on to say that he recently learned his father was also a musician. “The cool thing was is that he was good and I’m really proud of him, and I’d like to think that he’d be proud of me,” says the Just Breathe singer.
“What I took away from the entire experience, including Ed’s answer, is that they were gaining as much from me as I have from them,” Steve says after the interview. “It was not charity or pity, it was just mutual respect — or even love.”
He concludes with, “It’s quite humbling.”
My thoughts exactly, Steve. I am humbled by your grace as you face your final days with dignity and courage.
Watch the inspirational video, not only for Eddie Vedder’s touching interview, but also to hear Steve’s loving words to his young son.