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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

When Hate Knocks at the Door

I know that by now most of us active in social media has seen, heard about and read the hate letter printed on purple paper.  It's even hit traditional media.   It is disturbing and appalling to most of us that someone put into words such a hateful and hurtful letter and then left it in the door of a grandmother.

People are questioning how this kind of thing can happen, in today's society, where we are educated and aware.  And, I am too, but I'll confess it didn't shock me.

My Uncle John

Growing up, my Uncle John was just a part of the family.  Uncle John was mentally and physically disabled.

He took several seizures a day.  Which I admit, watching as a child was a scary thing. 

He took handfuls of pills four times a day, probably to try to control those seizures.  

He lived in institutions for many years - it was just what you did with your disabled family members.  There was unspeakable abuse in these institutions.  Then, one day the government closed all the institutions, sending people back into communities.  Many of these people hadn't been out of these institutions in years.  Luckily, for Uncle John he had a family which brought him home quite often. 

He loved music and knew every song on the radio.

He loved Christmas and birthdays and was just as excited as we were on those special days.

Hate appeared at his doorstep many times.  My Dad even speaks about having to run back and forth with his brother from school, because kids were throwing rocks at them.   In fact that family cottage which we were just at, came to be because my Grandmother bought the property as a place to take Uncle John where he could find peace. 

Uncle John passed away 19 years ago this Fall.  He left this earth much too soon.  One day he just didn't recover from of one of his seizures.  That day he left behind his legacy.

Uncle John's Legacy

I was taught compassion for others, just by having my Uncle John in my life.  Nothing was ever said about him being "different", we just knew and loved him for what he was. 

Growing up I never realized the gift of acceptance and compassion for others which I was learning, until one day I was working my after school job.  I was serving a disabled customer.  It wasn't a big deal, and I took my time helping him with his transaction.  After we were finished I went on with the next customers in line.  Then, later that evening a customer returned and thanked me for being so patient and kind with the disabled customer earlier that day.  This customer had been one of the people waiting in line behind.  That day it dawned on me at 17 years old, that not all people treat others with kindness, and respect, no matter their abilities or disabilities.

Today, on my refrigerator door I have a 20 year old picture taken of the last Christmas Uncle John was with us.  We see it every day and my children know who their Great Uncle John is.  Even, though they don't have Uncle John in their lives, they know all about him.  My kids are learning the same lessons I learned about life from my Uncle John. 

That day my Uncle John died, he left a living legacy.  Even though Uncle John had taken thousands of pills in his lifetime, his organs were unaffected.  Uncle John was able to donate his organs, tissue, eyes....everything.  Uncle John who was treated poorly in life by many, gave the gift of life on his last day on this earth and that is his legacy.    People who had no hope, were given hope that cold and wet day in November when they received the gift of life from my Uncle John. 

When I read that letter from the 'pissed off mother', I thought of my Uncle John and just maybe how his organ donations may of been given to someone that that letter writer knew and loved.  

Now,  wouldn't that be a shock to her? 

Uncle John's legacy lives on in my children.  Just yesterday my oldest daughter was asked to help a very special child in our community with bowling this Fall.   When my son was in grade two he came home one night with a note in his planner speaking of his kindness at recess with that same child. 

It makes my heart soar.  Truly it does.  Uncle John may be gone, but he lives on...in more ways than one. 


Janet said...

What a beautiful post about a special man, who taught so much, and continues to do so. Thank you for sharing his story with us! Sending love from South Africa xx

Country Mouse, City Mouse said...

Thank you, Janet. He was a blessing in my life, we remember and speak of him often :)

Susan Margaret said...

Thank you for sharing this Pam!

I worked for many years with children and adults with developmental challenges. I learned more from many of these people about overcoming obstacles and the beauty of life than I have from anyone else in my life. I'm blessed to still call a couple of these people my friends.

I read that letter and it hurt my heart. I'm shocked that this type of anger and intolerance still exists today.

I'm glad you had your Uncle John in your life. He sounds like a great man. I wish everyone had someone like that in their life because perhaps it would make people recognize that we are ALL different -- it's just more noticeable sometimes.