The burning flame: A living, breathing symbol of love and unity.
"Nothing changed as far as her personality," says Tim Hayden about his wife, Rebecca.
It's exactly the kind of life Tim and Rebecca Hayden built for their family of five in Fort Mill.
"She's a beautiful woman," he says looking at her.
But just as a flame represents life, it could also destroy. A debilitating disease has been eating away at Rebecca's body for the last year.
"Even though she can't communicate. Her mind and her analytical ability is just as sharp as it was as the day I met her," says Tim.
Rebecca, at the age of 40, was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease. Before she became sick she was an active resident in her Fort Mill neighborhood, creating a competitive swim program and dance troupe for the girls and boys in her subdivision.
"There isn't anything she can do for herself," Tim explains.
ALS, a neuro-degenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, would take over in 2012.
"I have to brush her teeth. I have to help her to the bathroom. I have to bathe her," says Tim.
But this path Rebecca is on is not even the hardest part...
"I'm... putting... together... a... video," says Rebecca slowly. Then she begins to cry.
"She put together a video (for the kids)," says Tim emotionally, finishing her sentence. "It's the weddings, it's the graduations, it's the grandchildren that you'll miss out on."
As the sun sets in the neighborhood where the Haydens built roots...something special is happening.
"And they're going to know it's for them," says organizer Tonya Sharps. "And it's going to warm their hearts hopefully. Just to give them a little bit of hope."
Residents in their subdivision were asked to buy luminaries and light them at dusk.
"You need that sense of community to be able to live each day with ALS," says Tim.
The whole family packed the minivan and for their 30 minute ride through the neighborhood...the Christmas lights overshadowed by a sea of candlelights.
A smile from Rebecca...and even a tear fell during the drive.
"I just can't wait I want to see the smile on their faces," says Tonya waiting for the Haydens at the community clubhouse.
The community gathered together at the end of the ride to see Rebecca's reaction. While it may be difficult for Rebecca to say the words "thank you," the smile those who rally around them daily saw on her face was beyond what words can express.
"The hope is the light," says Tim.
All the money raised to purchase the luminaries goes back to the Haydens to help pay for medical costs. The total amount raised was $3,700.
Tim and Rebecca Hayden say they're sharing their story hoping to bring more awareness to ALS...and encourage people to financially support the research to find a cure.
You can find a link to the ALS Association --> Just click here.