Craig Fox's story carries on after his death
Aug. 17, 2011 at 3:17 a.m.
Craig Fox lived 43 years.
He really lived.
"He opened up my eyes to living. He made me realize not to be afraid to try anything, just take chances and love follows," his girlfriend, Alisa Villarreal, said. "Know he fought hard. He lived a fulfilling life, and I think he left a great mark on this world."
Villarreal was by his side, along with his parents and sister, when Fox died Wednesday afternoon.
"He just peacefully went to rest," Villarreal said, sitting in Fox's "man cave" at his parents' house.
Fox lived, really lived, nearly four years with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Patients with ALS typically live three to five years with the motor neuron disorder, which slowly attacks muscle movement.
By the end, Fox was unable to walk and his voice was fading. His lungs were eventually unable to support his body after his second bout with pneumonia. He died after a week at Citizens Medical Center - a week spent surrounded by siblings, friends and his two kids, Tanner, 16, and Bailey, 13.
Throughout his journey, Fox was anything but silent about the disease that eventually stripped him of most ability to move. ALS, after all, never took his voice.
"I think he wanted to share the learning process he was going through with everyone else because we have to fight it. We have to research it, and we have to try to figure out how to stop it," his mom, Peggy, said last week in the ICU waiting room.
It was always her son's personality to share, to love hard, to open himself up in even the toughest trials brought on by ALS.
"If you can't laugh at yourself, then you shouldn't be able to laugh at anybody else," Fox had said a week before he was rushed to the hospital.
Wednesday night, Peggy Fox was even more sure of the influence her son will leave.
"Someday, we're going to find a cure because of Craig's stories and the many more like Craig's," she said.
Even in his death, ALS won't take Fox's voice.
Drew Stewart, a former Advocate intern, last year debuted a documentary called, "Breadth of Hope." It featured the Fox family and two other Victoria families living, really living, with ALS.
"You felt that this was a person who was truly alive, in spite of his situation," Stewart said about Fox.
The full-length documentary spurred from just one interview with Fox, which Stewart said was so compelling and illuminating, it had to be shared.
In the hours he spent getting to know Fox, the moments that stick out the most with the big, boisterous father were the small, intimate ones.
"Our conversations would weave in and out from the mundane to the extremely profound," Stewart said. "He was so full of life in that you could be talking to him about the smallest thing, and out of nowhere, he would say something so profound, and it would stick with you."
Stewart has screened the documentary in Victoria, St. Louis and is currently taking it to Los Angeles.
The people who meet Fox through the screen are taking away his same appreciation for life, Stewart said.
Fox's mother said Stewart's film showcased her son's spirit.
"My thought was you couldn't pass through Craig's life without him pulling off a bit of your heart," she said. "I think he captured that, and I think now it's happening in places Craig really never got to go."