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
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.
PS. See Karen Putz's post...