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Niagara Falls
Tuesday, May 28, 2024
Editorial: Courage in the face of death
Peter Earle, who was diagnosed with ALS in April 2023, has decided his life will come to an end on June 4. "One has to admire Earle for making that tough call and doing so without showing fear or anger," writes Richard Harley. RICHARD HARLEY

One can only hope that if we ever develop a disease like ALS, we handle it as well as Peter Earle has.

As related on the front page of this week’s edition of The Lake Report, the Niagara-on-the-Lake resident and owner of the longstanding Halley’s Fashion for Men retail store on Queen Street, has been living with ALS for a little more than a year.

It came on suddenly and took him from driving between his two store locations in July 2023, to full-on, long-term care support by November.

A social man, he has decided that as the disease progresses and he loses his ability to communicate, he will end his life, on his own terms.

His ability to speak is severely restricted, though he can get out sentences with immense effort. Thanks to innovative technology, he can laboriously construct short emails using a computer that tracks his eyes.

So, he has decided his life will end on June 4. It’s a sad, but also, in a sense, fortunate situation.

Sad because we’re losing a man too early to a horrible disease that we still don’t fully understand or know how to treat.

But fortunate that we live in a country where we can make the decision to end our lives on our own terms in untenable situations such as this.

One has to admire Earle for making that tough call and doing so without showing fear or anger.

Though, of course, there is a degree of anger. He’s angry at the disease, frustrated at not being able to control his body while his mind functions as well as ever.

But he smiles. He laughs — even at bad jokes made in an attempt to bring some light to his life.

He continues to wind down his businesses, remains cheerful despite it all and poses for photos for our story about his life, and about the end of an era as his store closes.

Bravery might be the right word. Along with courage and fortitude.

He sings the praises of the people who have helped him through his illness. Not just his friends, neighbours and store staff, but the doctors and support workers from McMaster, St. Catharines hospital, Hotel Dieu Shaver and Upper Canada Lodge.

At a time when it would be easy to be bitter and resentful, he is trying to see the positives and spread a message of thankfulness and appreciation for what we have as Canadians, and the good people we will all eventually lean on when we are at the end of our own journeys.

He’s taught us the importance of caring for people in our own lives, those might need extra help and understanding. It can be as simple as taking the time sit with them, to listen and not talk.

Meanwhile, as Canadians, we should continue to advocate for access to affordable treatments and technology that can help us make the most of our final days and years.

Niagara-on-the-Lake is losing a light in Earle, who was a friend to many and continued making friends during his illness.

Through experiencing his story, he is now our friend, too.

We respect his decision to end his life. And we applaud him for his bravery in relating it so that others may learn and appreciate this gift of life.


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