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Friendship: One Of A Kind

June 28, 2010, 10:10 PM by Kelli Grant

Friendship: One Of A Kind
SIOUX FALLS, SD - It's a subject that likely isn't brought up at the dinner table. In fact some people avoid the topic altogether. But dying is considered nature's course, something a KELOLAND teen is learning first hand.

That’s because her school assignment has turned into a lifelong friendship even though one of those lives will be cut short.

In a few months, Lizzy Bunkers will be a freshman at Augustana College. She's taking with her some soccer skills, her academics, and a friendship she won't ever forget.

Lizzy met Dian Alolor last winter when her teacher at O'Gorman High School asked her and her classmates to challenge themselves.

“Some kids thought that challenge would be working with kids that are deaf or working with kids that have a mental handicap. Or kids that move from family to family. For me,  I thought this would be a challenge just because of the past I did have with the hospice,” Bunkers said.

Three of Lizzy's grandparents died in hospice care so she felt drawn to serve these patients. That's why four days a week, for more than an hour she finds herself by Dian's bedside at the Dougherty Hospice House.

"The first day I was with Dian and I just kept coming back to her every single day for lunch. I came over the lunch hour and I fed her lunch and we'd just talk and converse and watch the Food Network," Bunkers said.

Dian was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrigs Disease, nearly six years ago. The disease has taken away the use of her entire body. She's paralyzed from the neck down.

But Dian's illness is also giving something to Lizzy.

"People in the hospital are in all different stages. There are people that are really close to death. And there's people that have a terminal illness and they're just taking it day by day. People don't understand that. Coming to the hospice gives you perspective on what it's really like. You know, the path to death," Bunkers said.

It's that perspective that's helped form a bond as story after story is shared.

"She's awesome. She has so many stories.  She was the Mayor of Hurley and she skydived and she tells me all these different life experiences which is great because it gives her a chance to share, but it gives me a chance to gain knowledge from her experiences. She's just great," Bunkers said.

The feeling is mutual.

"She has things that you don't see in a lot of people her age," Dian said.

That's something Dian wanted Lizzy's parents to know before she died, so she asked a nurse to put those feelings to paper for her.

"I was touched. I mean for Elizabeth to provide some joy to a person with a life limited illness such as Dians' was just touching. As parents what we want our kids to do is to go out and share what they have to help someone else's life," Lizzys mom, Mary Bunkers said.

Lizzy graduated from high school this past spring and the class project ended in the winter, but Lizzy keeps coming back.

"She tells me we're friends," Diane said.

Lizzy even stopped before winter formal on Valentines Day to twirl for Dian in her dress.

"Lizzy had a lot of bling. I told her you got a lot of bling and she showed me what I couldn't see," Dian said.

It's days like that Lizzy will always remember and it's something only these two share. They've always tried to keep the conversation light all the while knowing Dian's time is limited. 

"I know where I'm going when I die. I have very strong faith. And I know that when I go, I will go with God," Dian said.

One faith shared by two that has created a one-of-a-kind friendship.

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