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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The ones we met, the ones we lost.

Since I have graduated about 5 years ago I have met a whole lot of amazing people. Unfortunately, I have also mourned the loss of a few of those people, too. Now, a few weeks ago, I had news that one of my former clients has passed away.

The last time I saw her, she was in good spirits, she was ready to improve herself step by step and don’t let the MS get in the way of her living life. Moreover, she wished me good luck starting up new in BC and was also emphasizing how much she would miss me and she rather not see me go. We also decided that day that we have indeed over the years we known and worked with each other, have become friends.

I remember telling her how much I was looking forward to see all those improvements when I return. Both of us were in good spirits about the future. A few weeks later I heard she had a Stroke. Then I heard she has been hospitalized and that’s the last news I had.

When I met her first she was not even sure she had MS. She had some symptoms but she said she wasn’t sure. In the beginning we had no other people to work with. So she had a lot of individual attention. We worked through a lot of frustration and other emotional baggage and of course achieved a lot of success moving forward. I was able to earn her trust and she would always ask my advice on anything that involved her rehabilitation. She introduced me a lot of different things and gave me her first hand experience, which I have treasured and passed on when I felt it would be helpful.

She had a pretty hard year with lots of attacks and has been hospitalized a couple of times. But as mentioned she was back on the horse and ready to tackle whatever mountain would come up next. Her spirit was sooo alive and in my head she still is. She told me she is done with all the naj-sayers and appreciated my positive attitude towards living and learning.

Over the years she learned to control her inner Hertense (that’s what she called herself, when she forgot to breath and believe. And when the frustration got the best of her.). We used to laugh about that name a lot even though it was a very touchy subject but we just shared that knowledge it was ok. We also knew that with discovering Hertense, she actually has learned to be a master at self-awareness and self-control. I was happy to know that I had contributed to that self-recovery.

Last week I used her example of the discovery of her Hertense with one of my other client (with slightly watery eyes- but I don’t think my clients noticed because I smiled it away) to teach about self-awareness and control. The story was very much appreciated and I think brought across my point. I quietly send appreciation to her and what she has taught me.

Her death, made me think of my other clients I have lost and who wont be easily forgotten at least not by me.

The girl who had a lot of medical problems and most people involved in her live had little expectation. Her mother was always so appreciative of us trying things and she appreciated it too with a huge smile.

The little boy who died of a rare illness that was completely unrelated to his Cerebral Palsy. It broke my heart watching and sensing his parents pain when they buried him. Nevertheless, they only had kind words for us at the funeral even though they were in so much pain. They are truly the most giving and kind people I know. The summer before he attended our summer camp. He made us cry with laughter as well as pulling out our hair out at his stubbornness and determination for the wrong things. We pushed him hard that summer and he made tremendous improvements. The boy who used to use his walker only as monkey bars with little weight on his feet learned to take independent steps with his canes. When we heard the sad news, one of my assistance said that he nearly wishes he wouldn’t have pushed him that hard. I had to think about it for a bit but came to the conclusion, that we did the right things. He and his family gained so much hope and momentum that summer, which they proudly showed off in their community. It brought them a lot of happiness and that’s just priceless; also it left me with no regrets as it showed me the part we can play in peoples life.

Hope, is also what we gave another elderly gentleman who battled a quite devasting progressive neurological condition for 11 years. We started to work on things that were doomed impossible and he kept moving forward not as expected backwards for the 2 or so years, we knew him. Despite his frozen facial expression you could always see his joy, happiness, hope and appreciation in his blue eyes. His wife told us how much meeting us changed him and brought him to a better place in himself. But I think we really gained from his presence and his inability to give up.

This was something my training didn't prepare me for - and no there is no blame that it didn't, just an observation- but that has touched my professional career again and again. I personally have little experience with death and nowadays it mostly happens far away from me, that it makes it unreal. As a non-religious person its hard to give comfort as I feel wrong to say: its okay he is in heaven now.

Nevertheless, as most things you figure it out. And you have to, when you share those experience with other children or adults who were part of that particular group. Most of the times, it feels as the professional you have to be the rock and be strong for everyone else. And sometimes acting comes with the job.

I am far away from being an expert in it and truly hope I never become one in that.

Strange, how sad times make you think about the happy times, and happy times about the sad ones. But I guess you cannot have one without the other or would be able to appreciate it the same way.


  1. Hi Anne -- Thank you for posting this -- it is sensitive and honest. We work with people and we see them through a lot of life and sometimes right through to death. It is part of what makes this work so real and so human. We live in a world that is physical, where we face the tragedies of the human experience, and therefore our own mortality -- I believe that this helps us appreciate and celebrate the moments of joy.

    I am trying to get my head clear enough to post on the same subject -- on Monday I had news that a very young man whom I have been working with died very suddenly -- I am still reeling from the news, waiting for the announcement of the funeral, trying not to cry as I field calls from other people who knew him or know his mom, a journalist prominent advocate for change in services and overall attitude of society towards people with disabilities, trying for the millionth time to work out the right place and expression for my grief as a professional in this person's life when in my heart I feel the loss to be so personal, coming home exhausted and emotional after being superhuman all by myself out there.

    Your post has touched me and has made me feel less alone -- thank you


  2. No, thank you Lisa. It makes me definitely less alone too.Those are sad times, and losing a client always feels very personally- at least to me. After all we are so close to them, that it feels like loosing a friend or family.

    Even though I never met that young man from Australia a lot of dots leading back to him and I know this loss must be hard for everyone who knew him.

    I am glad this helps a bit.