A Glimpse Into the ALS Time Continuum

Rick Jobus avatar

by Rick Jobus |

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“But if I had the

Chance to start all over

I would be wishing today

On a four-leaf clover …

If I could turn back

The hands of time.”

The 45 rpm single “Turn Back the Hands of Time” by rhythm and blues artist Tyrone Davis was a foundational element when I began collecting musical recordings. Like many pieces, it is prone to spontaneous memory retrieval in response to a stream-of-consciousness trigger. Such was the case shortly after my ALS diagnosis was delivered.

For over a century, people have reported seeing their lives flash before them during periods of extreme stress, particularly near-death situations. After my ALS death sentence was handed down, I experienced a similar phenomenon. However, in my case, the sudden, rapid-fire burst of autobiographical content was soon followed by repeated, much slower, vignette replays. Each episode rerun begged for a “turn back the hands of time” scrutiny.

Maybe the prospect of a truncated life span prompted a desire for retrospective validation of the “goodness” of my prior life. And a cursory glance affirmed that premise. But when viewed under more critical optics, the mirror’s reflection became decidedly marred.

After close inspection, my past unfolded in a series of suboptimal, if not inappropriate, behaviors. It turns out that the motorcade of “Back to the Future” DeLorean time machines necessary to patch all of the potholes and sinkholes of my pre-ALS life would need to be immense.

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Interwoven in my patchwork quilt of mistakes were innumerable relationship shortcomings. Far too often I missed the mark as son, grandson, sibling, friend, student, teammate, cousin, nephew, employee, peer, manager, husband, stepfather, and in-law. That somber reality hit me hard.

What’s more, I had violated many — all, if sinful thought is factored in — of God’s commandments. I had trampled on the Gospel imperative to love my neighbor — meaning everyone — as myself. Any legacy that I might leave behind was apt to be a cautionary one of how not to live.

I was drowning in a sea of remorse. Something that began as hopefully a feel-good exercise had deposited me in a state of melancholic insomnia.

On her deathbed, my mom told my dad that she had no regrets. I found myself reflecting on that statement. My mother was a wonderful woman, but no regrets? In light of my haunting trip down memory lane, I found that notion absurd.

Then it struck me. My mom had led an imperfect life. But she maintained a faith that promised forgiveness. In that context, what did she have to regret?

At that moment, I realized that the same applies to me. My contrition over past transgressions was fitting. But like my mother, I have mercifully been forgiven. In turn, I could forgive myself. It was cathartic and cleansing. I could sleep again.

Fast-forward to my brother’s recent visit. During our time together, we decided to go through a box of old photos. The collection had not been opened since before my ALS diagnosis. Thus, the pictures would certainly contain glimpses into the history that I had ruminated about years before.

Indeed, they did. Without any effort, the captured images spun me back to many of the moments that I had fretted over, before the intervention of my mom’s posthumous wisdom.

They also packed a welcome, unexpected surprise. Many of them reflected joy, merriment, and contentment on the faces of those assembled. Affection and fellowship were obvious. The photos illustrated that, despite my admitted flawed participation, I was an element of something special. It was a perfect, tonic-like juxtaposition to my earlier angst.

Suddenly, Davis’ lyrics again sprang from the recesses of my mind. “If I could turn back the hands of time,” I’d alter just two things:

  • I’d be a better Christian by loving everyone more selflessly.
  • I’d take more pictures.

Going forward, I pledge to do both. After all, I’ve got the time.


Note: ALS News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of ALS News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to ALS.


Sheelagh Lloyd John avatar

Sheelagh Lloyd John

Thank you for this article, it resonates with many thoughts I have regarding looking back on life with the benefit of hindsight, faith and lack of faith, more life behind than in front.
Time is so precious

robert daniels avatar

robert daniels

Thank you for your thoughts, they are uplifting on even the worst days this disease throws at us.

Creighton Rider avatar

Creighton Rider

nice article Rick. Your insights are spot on.

I hadn’t read your bio before today, but hey- we’re virtually twinners : 2007 diagnosis, engineer, and 63 (barely)

Karol Faurie avatar

Karol Faurie

Your memories of the past are through your eyes. As someone who has known you for over 40 years, I have a different perspective. I admired who you were back then, my regret is, that I was too shy to let you know.
You are an amazing inspiration to so many, including me.

Hossein Oshrieh avatar

Hossein Oshrieh

I am zeroing 71 in less than 3 month and approaching my ALS onset of 7 years in less than 4 months. I too was an engineer disciplined in planning and executing projects but never developed the ability to write so effectively as you. I agree we must let go of the past so that we can live fully in the presence and hopefully make better decisions affecting ourselves and others. Forgiving ourselves and others, while not easy, is pre requisite to better living now.


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