***Warning: This story may contain images that are unsettling to some***
AKRON, Ohio (WJW) — An Akron man's family helped him take one last stand in his battle against a progressive nervous system disease.
Willie "Mac" Shepard's last wish was to take a stand against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a disease that took away so much from him. ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease, traps an active mind into a body whose muscles slowly stop working.
Mac's wife, Rebecca Shepard, said her husband never wanted his disease to take away his ability to be with his family.
"He lost his limbs. It was just so amazing how strong he was. He'd say, 'oh well, you lose something else.' "Oh well, I'm gonna keep fighting.' He was never felt defeated. He never gave up. He never complained. He just kept going," Rebecca explained.
However, as time went on, Mac went from getting around with a walker to using a wheelchair and eventually to becoming bedridden.
Before he passed, Mac told his wife that he wanted to stand one last time.
"He said, 'I just wish I could stand just one last time. I don't even have to walk, I just want to stand,'" Rebecca recalled.
When he passed on February 1, at just 77 years old, his family decided they would honor that last wish.
Instead of lying down in a casket at his funeral, Mac was standing tall in one of his best suits.
"This is what he would have wanted," Rebecca said. "He wanted to stand one last time. He was a soldier and had so much strength and determination."
Rebecca says some people were taken aback by their decision at first, but once they understood Mac's struggles they were happy to see him standing tall again.
His body was cremated after the funeral. Mac will be interred at Western Reserve National Cemetery.