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Friday, February 8, 2013

What's it all about?

Life is short. I know that ... and sometimes life is too short and people leave before we're ready to say good-bye to them, before they've done all the things that they hoped to do.

A friend died this week. Too young ... my age, in fact pretty much exactly my age (we used to joke that we were "litter mates", born in the same month, same year). I met him almost 25 years ago when we both worked at a school educating teens and young adults with autism. A good man with a wicked grin and a kind heart.

His loss leaves a big hole in the local autism community, and a far bigger hole in the hearts of the friends and family who loved him.

And today I'm once again thinking about how short life is ...

... my daughter died of cancer when I was 29 and she was almost 3. I couldn't make sense of it, couldn't see how to go on past that point. All of the things that had seemed so important - employment, income, professional standing - were blown to dust in this new shockingly clearer view of life and death. My only regrets were the times that I had let my fears and worries stop me from fully living, loving and laughing in the moments I had with her.

My work with individuals on the autism spectrum came after this point. When I deal with an ASD individual and their family, my primary goal is always to maximize the enjoyment of the present moment - it doesn't matter that things are not perfect, they rarely are, and really (as I frequently tell my students) perfect is a bit boring. There's always something that's going right, something that's funny and endearing and quirky. It's not naive or silly to focus on the positive, it's essential to helping people blossom and reach their potential. And you just don't know how long you have.

And so with this in mind, and in honour of my friend Roc, here's a cartoon drawn by Adam a few years ago featuring a baby and a skeleton (I think Roc would appreciate the humour):

Live your life fully with an open heart, laugh until you snort tea out your nose, let tears fall when they want to and leave your legacy written in people who count themselves better for having known you.


  1. Wow Sheila. Powerful words. I'm sorry for your loss. And I'm about to gulp some of that tea (for snorting...). ; )