Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Dear Jill C. Wood...

Fuck. I met Jill through the yahoo support group Listen Up, where she amazed me with her commitment to helping mothers find resources and psychological support during their times of crisis raising deaf children. She had a no bullshit, kick ass disposition and way of helping parents that snapped them to attention and empowered them. She was raising two incredible children Katie and Ian, deaf, who will attend the University to become an audiologist.

This was one of the first posts Jill wrote in response to one of my cries for help:
..But that is also due to our home philosophy on life. Everyone is
different and has his/her own strengths. Everyone has something that they work to overcome, that they learn to cope with in life. We appreciate people for their differences, how they can make us look at things from a different perspective. Different is not a bad thing in our house, we actually revel in being a bit different.

But noticing that you're the only kid with hearing aids, or that
you have something different that other's can perceive as a bad thing --
that's another issue. That can be a painful realization, depending on how the other kids are
treating you. Is he getting grief from anyone?

Kids never picked on my son for his hearing loss or aids, but a few did treat him with a kind of charity case attitude and he hated that. So, he ignored them. When he was in middle school and on an IEP, he was required to take his study halls in the resource room ("where the dummies go") even though he didn't need the services. But he didn't complain, even though he got some grief from a few "idiots" about having to go to the resource room. My son didn't need the remedial help that the other kids did, so instead he worked
with them to help them with their work.

In that setting he learned a level of empathy that he wouldn't have any other way. He made friends with some kids he would not have met otherwise. He learned to appreciate them for the things he finds important -- a sense of humor being a big one. And he also learned that when you hang together with friends, the bullies don't usually bother to pick on you.

My son knows he's different, that he's been given special challenges. For his annual checkup there is now a form that he fills out. One of the questions is if he could change one thing about his life, what would it be? His answer was similar. He said as far as he's concerned he's had a perfect childhood, but if he could change one thing, it would be to restore his hearing. Each time he fills it out he asks me if it's okay to write that. And I tell him it's perfectly honest, therefore it is okay.
He's afraid it might sound like he is depressed about his loss. I said no, it shows that he has adjusted to it, but is honest about it as well.

And yet, this year, given the chance to restore that hearing, he passed on it. The risks were too high and he is happy as he is. I know that sometimes hefeels isolated, sometimes he feels like the rest of the world gets a joke and he's missed the punch line. But I think that pretty much describes any kid, any adolescent. Realizing you're different isn't necessarily a bad thing.
It's if he feels like he is not as good or that his hearing loss somehow makes him less than the rest of the kids, then I'd be concerned.

He has usually been the only aided kid around. One of his best friends is a wonderful artist who stutters. Another is a cancer survivor who's rather small due to being ill so much of his life. All of his friends are "different" in some way, and yet none of those things is necessarily "bad" --
just different. And they all have different strengths along with their
weaknesses. That's what we've always pointed out, and he's taken it to heart. That's
been our goal on this topic.

Best -- Jill (who sounds like something out of a self-help
magazine, LOL)

About a year ago she announced that she had a very aggressive form of breast cancer. I loved her and admired her, so I sent her a couple of packages of Italian scarves. She sent me some Easter candy that arrived in July. I thanked her in November and apologetically told her I was going through some difficult times with my family. I never heard back from her after that email...I thought she was mad that I never thanked her.

On December 22nd, one of the most difficult days I'd passed this year, I went to my mailbox and found a package from her. I opened it. A pack of Halloween candy corn Autumn Mix. It's downstairs on my kitchen table as I'm writing this. I started crying, sobbing when I opened that package. Sometimes when you are feeling desperately alone, trying to figure out what the hell to do with your life, help comes from the strangest places. I got distracted by life and didn't send an email to let her know how much I appreciated receiving that package...

Five minutes ago, I opened an email from my friend in Germany, another mom Jill had helped...Jill died December 26th, apparently she had never told anyone how quickly her condition had deteriorated.

"It is with great sadness and a heavy heart that I must announce that Jill
Wood passed away on December 26, 2008. While we all must grieve, please
remember that Jill would not want us to be sad, but would much prefer we
laugh and smile at what her life was, rather than what ours is now missing.
Make a witty toast in Jill's honor, smile at one of her outrageous stories,
and know that she loved us all. Our attention must now turn to defeating
this horrible disease, Inflammatory Breast Cancer. The MD Anderson Cancer
Center at University of Texas has the first IBC clinic and is doing all of
the cutting-edge research on this. The main website is
http://www.mdanderson.org, search for their IBC clinic and research, and make a donation there. Jill's husband has also asked for donations to be made instead of flowers to the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer at avonwalk.org. Thank you all for being such a wonderful support system for Jill. I know she loves all of us and is watching over us now. God Bless You All.

Thanks Jill...

With Love,

PS. See Karen Putz's post...


VBnBama said...

Did her son have Goldenhar Syndrome by chance? I remember a Jill w/a kid w/Goldenhar just like my son who was very active on Listen Up...is this the same lady? I'm not on ListenUp anymore so help me out. Either way, I appreciate the story, and Karen's as well, all us get to "know" each other and we all seem like family at times. She sounds like quite the advocate and I know she'll be missed.

Anonymous said...

Val, yes that was the same Jill.

Anonymous said...

Oh Jodi,
Well said!

Naomi said...

I didn't know Jill Wood, but after reading your post Jodi and the message she sent to you, she clearly has "it". I will try to explain "it" but as is often the case, words don't usually do "it" justice.

"It" is that capacity to really touch another human being in a communication like the email she sent you. To be able to show such warm, compassion and support with a touch of humour and yet still come across with sincerity. This befits someone with an incredible generosity of spirit.

No I didn't know Jill Wood, but yet I can see enough here and on Karen's post to see that the world has lost one of its beautiful souls.

Christian and Lily's Mommy said...

Jill was one of the first Moms to reach out to me in the beginning of our journey with Christian. She was so warm, and was such a support. Jill always was willing to open up her heart and expertise to all of us "newbies". I am heartbroken for her family, and she will be missed.

Unknown said...

Naomi...it takes one to know one...
Tracey- thank you (I'm always thanking you, aren't I? *smile*)
Val-Kiss Gage
Tina- Tell that little girl to move it! Can't wait to see the first photo of her and the monkey!

mishkazena said...

Jill sound like a remarkable person, from reading your blog and karen's. CI world has lost a good person.

I am sorry for your loss, Jodi

Unknown said...

Thank you, Elizabeth...Happy New Year *smile*

Karen Putz said...

That "it" that Naomi talks about is spot on-- that was Jill. She had "it" and touched many lives.

Anonymous said...

I am so sad to hear about Jill. I loved reading her posts on Listen Up, she was so full of great information and support for all on the list. What an incredible loss for parents of deaf and hard of hearing children.

Jodi, Karen, thank you for blogging about this terrific woman who will be missed and never forgotten by so many of us. My heart goes out to her family.

If anyone has her husband's address, please email it to me. I tried to make a donation in Jill's memory but the hospital's site asked for the address to send a notification.


Unknown said...

Hiya Paula,
I'll try to find that for you...you may want to check listen up, I think a woman named Sherry has it. Kiss the rock star! Jodi

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