Saturday, March 10, 2012

Death, Be Not Proud...

One week. Two stories. Three deaths.

First story: Dave Francis, a wonderful podiatrist in the Saratoga Ward, passed away on Monday, after a valiant fight with cancer. The theme for Dave’s funeral service yesterday “A Life Well-Lived” was appropriate for a man who was good to the core. I don’t know the Francis family well but was touched by the sweet tributes of his five adult children for whom he was clearly their hero.

67 years of age doesn’t sound young (to some) but I don’t think of Dave Francis as old either. He feels like a peer, so the aging bar is a moving target I guess. But, his death felt premature. Although, there was still a peace about it; a sense his life had meaning and his death was not the end. The crowded service spoke to the impact his example had on the lives of others.

Second story: Thursday brought an terrible tragedy that rocked Andie’s world. George Hodgins (pictured at left), is one of Andie’s boys! She took care of George while working at the Morgan Autism Center, and helped his family with private respite care. Andie brought George over swimming, took him to movies and the mall. Even though George’s autism left him unable to speak, Andie and George had a special bond.

But, George’s mother, Elizabeth Hodgins, in an awful snap of judgment, killed George and then herself. Andie’s been in shock since she heard the sad news. It feels surreal to read the headline article in the San Jose Mercury News and then learn it’s describing Elizabeth and George.

The shocking news was heightened because while Elizabeth had done the unspeakable, the autistic parent community felt her awful plight. Struggling to care for autistic children is unrelenting; especially as they age. George was 22 years old and even though he was fairly high functioning in his understanding, his inability to speak was a huge challenge.

It’s hard to imagine how hopeless Elizabeth Hodgins had to feel to commit such an egregious act. On one hand, as Andie recalls, Elizabeth, was doting and constantly over-parenting George’s every need (get him just the cookie with the sprinkles, make sure you take him to the Disney store, he likes this game but not the other, etc) but on the other hand, it completely exhausted her. George was their only child, yet, he required full time supervision.

George’s death and Elizabeth’s suicide is deeply tragic on so many levels. After working so closely with the Hodgins family, this will leave an indelible imprint on Andie . It’s hard not to wish there had been a better support system in place for the Hodgins family.

“Grief is in itself a medicine.” - William Cowper