I was simply going through my messages. One by one, dealing with the requests or responding to questions or, simply taking in the information. It's what we all do. I opened an email, from a colleague, expecting a typical friendly note. Instead there was a message, sent to a number of different people, telling us that he was dying. A few details were given about his illness, it was clear that the end was in sight and that we were both being informed and being asked to respond with prayers and thoughts but not emails and calls. We were also asked to keep information as to his health as confidential as we could so that, while he lived, he could control the flow of information about him, and his illness.
Even though he and I have only met a few times, those times have always been rich with laughter and with leaning and with the kind of love that comes from two hearts and two minds who share one passion. Put simply, he is a great guy. I will miss him.
Then I thought about his contribution. He's made a great deal of difference in the lives of people with disabilities. He came up to Toronto as part of Vita's Masters Series and was hugely popular with our staff and with the staff that attended from other agencies. He could train. Man, he could train. He was always welcoming to Joe and recognized, deeply, our relationship as a real relationship. He gave lip service to nothing, if his words said it, his heart believed it.
As I was thinking through his list of accomplishments I remembered something. Manuela, at that time, before she passed away, was the ED of Vita. We, she and I, were to go to a conference together in New Orleans. At the last minute I was unable to go. Manuela had not been to that conference before and was disappointed that I wasn't able to go because I could have introduced her to people there.
On her first day there she said that she'd run into this fellow and recognized him from when he was up at Vita. She said that he immediately embraced her, brought her into his group and made sure she felt welcomed and included and she had fun.
I found it interesting that as hard as I tried to keep my mind on his contributions, via his work and his passion, I kept coming back to how he was in the world. How he treated people.
I think there are two kinds of accomplishments that form our legacies. What we did and who we were while we did what we did.
He will leave a legacy of commitment and caring and change for people with disabilities.
He will leave a legacy of commitment and caring and change for everyone who knew him.
That, in my opinion, is the mark of a well lived life.
I shall miss him.