A line from Tim McGraw’s hit song “Live Like You Were Dying” is the title of this week’s column. We are all mortal; for some of us, the end will come quick; for others, we’ll have that moment that stops you in your tracks, as the song says.
None of us want to think about it.
Back in mid-November, within my column titled “OORAH Recognition and Veteran Thanks Given,” there were smiles for many reasons. It covered my good friend Hal Gee, the United States Marine Corps, and the 307 true American Heroes that attended our Annual Veterans Day Breakfast. Thanks again to C.I. and all the great people at Dolly’s for teaming up with us for the event.
The second part of my column on 11/17 was a “Big Buck Double Down” featuring Dean and Lacey Kriebel. The daddy/daughter duo harvested a pair of beautiful bucks on back-to-back days. Dad Dean was more than proud of Lacey. Her smile said it all as she had her hands on the antlers of her first trophy buck. The picture that ran right next to Lacey’s was daddy Dean and his monster buck. You can see a little extra twinkle in Dean’s eyes as his buck was bigger. Dean is very competitive.
Mom, Amy, was the first to reach out to me with pictures and the story; the best part of the whole story was I got to talk to all of them. I’ve known Dean Kriebel and Amy Barger as outstanding athletes, especially basketball players, from many moons ago. I’ve known them personally as they’ve grown older and are raising their family, especially in recent years, and consider them friends. They just don’t come much better than the Kriebel family.
Shortly after that Big Buck Double Down, I ran into Dean at Winner Hardware; he was going bear hunting with a group. We talked about hunting, the kids, and boots. It was great to see him as always. We wished each other good hunting and a Happy Holiday Season and parted ways. About a week later, Dean was fighting for his life.
By the time the information made it back to me of what happened to Dean, and the fight he was facing, Scott Lowry and I caught up with each other at our Webb Weekly Christmas luncheon. Scott, a longtime friend of Dean and the family, confirmed the devastating news. It was that type of news that stops you in your tracks. That just takes over your thoughts and brings you to prayer for those involved.
For those that do not know Dean, he is about 6’ 7, is one of the most competitive folks you’ll ever meet, and has that true stick-to-itiveness spirit. He loves being a father and was at this point in his life when Lacey was to get her first high school basketball start, which made him very happy, and son Andrew was going to soon be celebrating his 21st birthday.
Amy and Dean have made it their lives’ work taking care of Andrew. The family recently discovered that Andrew doesn’t have Angleman Syndrome as they initially thought. He was newly diagnosed with an extremely rare gene mutation recently found in humans. When it was discovered, Andrew was one of seven people in the world with this mutation and he was the oldest. There is no official name for the mutation yet, but will most likely be named after the Canadian scientist that discovered it. You can learn more about Andrew and their foundation at askandrew.org. It is amazing to me out of this most difficult situation how Amy and Dean have not only taken care of their son but also created Andrew’s Special Kids Foundation to help others dealing with difficult problems.
Amy is truly an amazing lady; if there’s anybody that can support her husband through this difficult time and continue on with her life’s work, it is definitely her. Back to being in the fight for his life, Dean was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma type B.
Shortly after the last time I saw Dean, he was hospitalized for 11 days; he nearly lost his life as his organs began to shut down due to an off the charts amount of calcium in his blood caused by the disease. He would like to thank UPMC’s doctors and staff for their efforts in turning around this dire situation. This, along with his unwavering determination to live, has allowed him to begin chemo treatments. He just completed his 2nd round, and when I talked to him last week, he was full of piss and vinegar and ready to take on the world.
During our conversation, there were a few things Dean wanted me to share.
His words, not mine, but beliefs I’ve written, especially during the past couple of years.
If you are not well, seek immediate medical attention. Do not let COVID, or the fear of COVID, deter you in any manner. Dean tested negative at home for COVID; he did not want to be at a medical facility exposed to COVID by seeking help.
This waiting nearly cost Dean his life. Thank God Amy made him go.
Please get to the doctor if you’re not feeling well.
Next, and maybe most importantly, never take life for granted. We only get so many days, and the clock is always running. Take advantage of your time, and don’t miss out on any special moment or opportunity that presents itself.
Always make sure to take a moment and to share your love with your family, friends, and loved ones. You never know when that time may come that you can’t tell them how you feel, for whatever reason.
And lastly, be kind and caring to your fellow man even when it’s difficult. This led to Dean being overcome by emotion as he asked me to thank everyone for the outpouring of support for him and his family. He has heard from people from throughout his journey through life, some he had no idea cared so much.
My thoughts and prayers are with the Kriebel family. Thank you, Dean, for the conversation and sharing so much with us during your fight.
Just before sending the paper to press, I talked to Dean, who had just gotten off the phone with his doctor. Everything is going very well, and he is cleared to return to light exercise.
God Bless America.