An Angel

168719_10150129946161195_7401208_n(a Facebook note from 10 February 2011 at 14:51)

they say angels walk among us – well, sometimes they don’t walk.
sometimes they go whizzing past you in their wheelchair, laughing with glee at your startled reaction.

i met Gerard in such a fashion, in late 1992 or early 1993 when i worked at Fairview Park Mall in Kitchener. i had just come out of my darkest days, after losing a much-loved and longtime friend to suicide. i was so far gone i didn’t even think i needed help – but Gerard knew otherwise, and i think he was sent my way for just that purpose.

we became fast friends; i loved his laugh and he told me i had a cute bum. not kidding! we would eat together in the food court, and he often visited me in the store. when i became pregnant and was so scared, he promised me everything would be ok. he said he would be my friend forever and wouldn’t let anything bad happen to me, that he’d always be there for me. and he has been.

he has always been very honest, whether talking about how having been born with Cerebral Palsy has affected him, how he has felt at any given moment, or if asked his opinion about something. i have never seen him embarrassed or angry, and his patience knew no bounds whenever i struggled to feed him, drive the van, or just understand him when he spoke. he would always berate me for being so hard on myself.

the level of happiness and compassion for others he demonstrated were always a source of inspiration for me. he never felt sorry for himself, and often took on the role of confidante and encouraging friend for me. prime example of this was when we took a trip to Vineland to an aviary (his passion is birds) on a snowy day in 2006. he had just gotten a new van, one that i had never driven – and i was white-knuckling it on highway 6 south in whiteout conditions. can you imagine being strapped into a wheelchair, the chair locked into the van with a heavy-duty restraint system, at the mercy of an inexperienced and near-panicked driver? well, Gerard took it all in stride. as a matter of fact, he calmly reassured me the entire way – and i relaxed to the point where we were cruising with the oldies blaring and both of us singing and laughing. he just had that effect.

Gerard should have been able to dance and run in the park with his dog Buster- all of the things we take for granted. his shiny energy and joie de vive make his limitations all the more heartbreaking. but he never complained. if he needed help, he would ask matter-of-factly. he trusts those around him at all times, sometimes to a fault. he has told me of incidents where his kind heart has been taken advantage of.

i really wish that somewhere along the line, a nice lady had seen that kind heart and taken it in her hands to hold. Gerard has had lots of friends, but i know he has always yearned for a true love.

his beautiful black lab Buster was a constant companion who brought him a lot of joy. when Buster was a pup, i met them at a park one spring day for a walk. i will never forget Gerard’s gales of laughter when i untied the dog from his chair to go for a run with him, and nearly had my arm ripped out of its socket as he dragged me through the mud! we laughed about it for years, and after Buster died we would remember that day so fondly.

despite all of the challenges he has faced, Gerard has always been upbeat and unafraid. and now that cancer is taking him away, i still can’t find within me the strength he has. i wish i had been a better friend. i hope he knows how much his friendship has shaped me into a better person. and i can’t bear to think of him struggling any more than he already has. it is just so unfair to me, that his later years were cut short and maimed this way.

i am thankful that my daughters both met him. Abby’s time spent with Gerard has taught her alot, i think. and while Bryce is too young to understand, when her eyes focused on his the other day i know a connection was made. some of Bryce’s expressions remind me of Gerard, actually.

and i guess that’s just another wonderful thing about him.
that while so much was taken away from him at birth, he retained some of the most beautiful qualities that babies possess; those precious things that fade quickly and forever.
Gerard never lost them – and i’m so thankful that he shared them with me.

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