by Pete Ferguson
In early March, 2002, Steve Ferguson's brother Pete posted on PHA's message board a moving memorial tribute to a life well lived. Pete has allowed us to repost that memorial for all to read.
Steve Ferguson: December 25, 1965 - March 4, 2002
My brother Steve died of heart failure due to his PH last week. While he did not write into this board very often, he checked it frequently before his stroke. I checked it almost daily. The messages provided a source of information and support for him when he was first dealing with his diagnosis about 3 1/2 years ago. He has been on Flolan from the beginning and O2 24 hours a day after about a year into it.
He will be sorely missed.
On Growing up with Steve
It amazes a lot of people when I tell them I came from a family with 7 children. Even though there were a lot of us, mom did not have us really close together. She had us over a period of 20 years and in a lot of ways our parents really raised 2 families: Pat, Mary, David and Bill and then Tom, Steve and me. Tom being several years older then Steve and me was really the ‘middle’ child. So what I am trying to get to is, while we have a big family, in terms of kids growing up together, it was really Steve and me.
It was the two of us and like many siblings close in age, we may not have always liked each other, but we always had each other.
His Competitive Spirit
Growing up at times we were the best of friends and the worst of enemies. I have great memories of the two of us playing endlessly in the backyard, in the front yard, playing ‘gun’s’ down between the church and convent. We played board games too. Many afternoons were spent around a Monopoly board with the Shanahan brothers from across the street. Of course it took me a long time to really learn the rules, because, Steve, as the self appointed leader of the group, was always changing them. Amazingly, he managed to win quite a bit.
It was this same competitive spirit that helped drive him to greatness on the athletic field and in the classroom.
So much Talent
As many of you know, Steve was a great athlete. While he was the 6th of 7 children (#6 or Steverino as dad liked to call him), he was first in our family to achieve many things.
- Steve was the first to graduate from a Catholic High School, something very important to our mother
- First to receive all City Varsity football honors
- First to have an athletic and academic scholarship to college
- First to play college athletics
- First to win a national championship
- First Academic All American
- First President of a fraternity
- First to earn a college degree
In sharing his talents with us, Steve gave our family some very magical years. This may sound strange but Steve’s success on the football field, both in high school and in college, helped bring our family closer together. By going to Steve’s high school games mom and dad started meeting a new group of friends at St. Francis. Dad’s participation in the SFS booster club and Circle 8 gatherings were something he really looked forward to.
When Steve was in college, Saturday’s in the fall were reserved for family road trips to Hillsdale to watch him play. These were great times of tailgating and laughing and enjoying each other. This was one of Steve’s many gifts to our family.
Being waited on…
Now, Steve wasn’t perfect. Part of his character that everyone who knew him will remember, is that he loved to be waited on and he had an incredible knack for getting people to do things for him. And I am talking about way before he got sick. People just did things for Steve that you would not ordinarily do. Our parents did them, my brothers and sister did them, I did them, Becky did them. I am not sure why, and we frequently complained about it, but we did it. This is part of Steve’s charm, part of his persona that we will always remember and cherish.
His highs were very high, his lows were very low I believe most of us go through life without really experiencing the extremes. Not Steve, in his life he experienced and accomplished some really great things. He also suffered and struggled in ways most of us can’t imagine.
Steve’s success on the field and in the classroom, both in high school and in college, was the stuff dreams were made of. Most 13 and 14 year old boys dream of having the experiences Steve did. He was popular, athletic, smart and out going, and most of all fun to be around. These were great years for Steve. Incredible Highs.
Steve’s lows were very low. His bout with cancer after graduating from college, his pulmonary hypertension, the stroke. These are things few 36 year old men experience. Steve faced them all with courage and honor, the building blocks of his character.
The other incredible high Steve experienced was falling in love with Becky. Talk about stuff fairy tales are made of. Similar life experiences, both battling illness, both carrying wounds from previous relationships, both falling so absolutely in love with each other. As much as Steve received from Becky, so too did he give. How lucky they were to have each other, even for such a short time. Some people go a lifetime and never experience what they had.
Steve never complained, he never asked why me? We were talking one day, shortly after he was diagnosed with the PH and I said to him, “Steve I can’t believe all this stuff is happening to you, why you? Don’t you ever struggle with that? I have never heard you complain about it, surely you have to ask yourself that question.” And do you know what he said to me, he said, “This is going to sound strange, and you don’t have to believe it, but I do. He said, I kind of think of this as my way of contributing. If all this bad stuff happens to me, it won’t happen to anyone else in our family. It’s kind of my way of protecting our family.”
Isn’t that incredible? That’s how he dealt with it, he was doing it for us.
Now you have to know Steve to really understand, that is how he worked it out in his head, and that’s the way it was. Once he figured something out, that was it. No sense spending any more time dwelling on it.
To my children, what would I like you to remember about your Uncle Steve…
Your uncle Steve was one of the most talented people I have ever known. He was talented not just on the playing field and not just in school. He was charming, when he wanted to be, logical, and quick witted. Uncle Steve was good at whatever he put his mind to.
He was brave and courageous in the face of adversity…just like Harry Potter! He was determined and dedicated. He knew what he liked and what he disliked. And he would let you know it too.
Ian, Steve loved the fact that you looked like him. From your curly hair to your facial expressions, to your natural leadership abilities. He loved it all.
Riley, you have Steve’s spirit; strong and determined. When he made up his mind about something, that was it. If you didn’t like it, well…..too bad.
Bridget, the last time I talked to Uncle Steve, I asked him to be your God Father. You should have heard the excitement and enthusiasm he expressed. He was delighted.
Most of all, what I want you to remember about your uncle. He loved his family, he was a devoted husband and a wonderful friend.
Well, Mrs. 6, what can I say. You are one of a kind and Steve was so blessed to share his life with you. Your love and devotion to him serves as a great example for the rest of us in how we should live our lives and treasure each other. Your dedication never wavered, in sickness and in health. You are his friend, his lover, his caregiver, his soul mate. These are not words I use lightly. Many people are in love, many people are great friends, not many are soul mates.
Good-bye Steve, thank you for being a part of our lives. For sharing your talents with us, for bringing our family closer together.
Thank you for protecting us from illness. For providing an example of how we should tackle what life sends our way.
You lived, and you died, with courage and honor. We will never forget you and our family will be telling your story for generations. We love you Steve.