When Chris Lucash was diagnosed with ALS at the age of 53, he and his wife Alisa and their three young children moved to a community where they and their neighbors could make a place for his dying and death.
A few years earlier, filmmaker Jeff Mittelstadt had begun documenting Chris’ life work. As a federal biologist, Chris had worked for nearly 30 years to reintroduce endangered red wolves into the wild. When he began, zero existed outside of captivity; under his program, red wolf numbers in the wild rose to about 130 before the program was undercut by political controversy. During those years in the field, Chris was exposed to the toxins of industrial agriculture that may have caused the disease that would claim his life.
The day after his diagnosis, Chris and Alisa and Jeff began to make Staring Down Fate, a feature-length documentary that brings us into the intertwined stories of the endangered red wolf and Chris’ journey towards death.
“I have ALS,” Chris tells the gathering, in a statement read by Alisa. “I’ve had to find a new way to make meaning of my life. When I began this struggle we listened to Stephen Jenkinson’s interviews and read his book Die Wise aloud to each other. Through Stephen’s teachings I realized that I have important work to do, perhaps the most important and purposeful work of my life. This work matters not only for me, but it’s the grounding work for my children, their children, future generations, even the health of our planet. Dying and death matter.”
We have so few chances, in these disconnected times, to learn dying. I urge you to watch and share this beautiful man’s legacy.
I want for my story to contribute to the telling of the story of a shared world of wolves, fathers and children. A world that will no longer be one of fracture, deterioration and extinctions, but of wholeness, health and abundance. If I have to die, let this whole story be told in hopes it will be one seed planted for the growth of a new story, a new culture. – Chris Lucash