Meet Legacy Society Members the Cawthern family
Nearly ten years after the death of her high school sweetheart and beloved husband, Tom, from ALS, Jayne Cawthern still has a catch in her voice when she speaks about the man who left this world far too early yet had profound impact on so many during his life.
"My greatest fear is that he won't be remembered," she said. "We keep a 'Dad' book with Tom's favorite expressions in it as a reminder. Our youngest child was only nine when her father died, so it's important to keep his memory alive."
Keeping Tom's memory alive is a passion Jayne shares with each of their six children and with the wide circle of friends and colleagues who knew and loved him. Tom went to medical school and worked as a pathologist. After his diagnosis, each of his partners pitched in so he could continue to work for as long as possible. Another friend visited regularly, encouraging Tom to go out with him. "Both friends and colleagues were gifts to our family," Jayne said.
"The ALS Association was also a gift. I truly believe God was looking out for us the day He brought us to them," said Jayne. "They were always five steps ahead of us. While we were still coping with the diagnosis, they pushed us to adapt the house and for Tom to be measured for a motorized wheelchair. We couldn't have survived without them," Jayne added.
Today, Cawthern's entire extended family and network of friends and colleagues are giving back that gift. "All the kids are putting fundraising messages on Facebook and doing Walks," said Jayne. "And the people who knew Tom are contributing, too. Every year on Tom's birthday, I get a notice that a gift has been given in his honor."
Jayne has made a provision in her will for The ALS Association along with each of her six children. With determination in her voice, she said, "My will is divided seven ways. If I have seven dollars left, ALS will get one. It's a priority. Once it happens to you, you either try to never think about it again, or you find satisfaction in doing what you can so other people don't have to suffer."
Tom Cawthern used to come home from work, have dinner with his family, and then reexamine the pathology slides he'd reviewed that day. He knew that someone's life might depend on the outcome. Jayne Cawthern knows that someone's life-many lives-may depend on her bequest. "I'm determined to do what I can to help find a cure. I would donate every penny I have if I could," she said. "So I'm telling my story now in the hope that it will inspire others, and I will feel comforted knowing that my bequest will help even after I'm gone."