Two weeks ago, my sister’s boss died unexpectedly. His name was Dave. Dave was a rocket scientist. A “for-real, top-level security clearance, knew Ronald Reagan” kind of rocket scientist.
And yet that isn’t the coolest part. A twist of fate introduced Dave to the community of people with disabilities to whom, from then on, Dave dedicated his life.
Like nobody else, Dave could understand and see the never-been-seen-before possibilities in exceptionally complicated and intricate policy. He didn’t keep his insights to himself. He told two people…and they told two people…and they told two more. Pretty soon, like the rockets he’d helped send into space, he’d essentially launched the self-employment movement for people with disabilities.
He personally developed over 175 jobs for individuals with severe and multiple disabilities and helped implement over 250 Plans for Achieving Self Support (PASS). Quite impressive. Changing 450 lives is no small feat. But his impact was exponentially greater than that. By sharing his expertise with and training other professionals in the field, there is no telling how many lives he changed.
Winner of the International Association for Persons in Supported Employment Professional of the Year Award, “Dave never missed an opportunity to help someone through the Social Security maze, advocate for families, or point out hypocrisy and malfeasance in always the kindest of ways. He was a true gentleman.” [Employment Everyone]
Dave joked that he was a slacker but all who knew him said he was anything but. He worked tirelessly, remarking that the disabled had “already waited long enough” for the assistance they needed and deserved.
I never met Dave, yet his death has had an enormous impact on me. The wake of his death has made me aware that I have lived my adult life in a comfy little bubble.
The foundation of my bubble has been the belief that “I won’t die because my work isn’t done.” More correctly, that I actually “can’t die because my work isn’t done.” Living as if “there is more time”…that somehow “I am immune”…that I can do it “later.”
Those who knew Dave said he was so far from “done.” He was irreplaceable. Brilliant. Dedicated. Driven. For all of the right reasons. For all of the right people. And yet Dave wasn’t immune.
Dave’s death burst my bubble. I am not protected. If Dave can die, so can I.
Without warning and without my consent, I can die. Living outside my protective bubble is wildly unsettling: I realize that I am vulnerable, exposed and unprotected.
But it is oddly comforting, too. Dave’s death invites me to go for it. No excuses. I don’t want to look back and think, “I didn’t try. I should have tried. Why didn't I try? What was I waiting for?”
Thank heavens Dave didn’t wait. Imagine those 175 jobs not found…those 250 Plans for Self-Support not implemented…those 450(PLUS!) lives not changed. Imagine if Dave had waited.
Rabbi Zusya offered this wisdom: “When I reach the world to come, God will not ask me why I wasn’t more like Moses. He will ask me why I wasn’t more like Zusya.”
Thank you Dave for being "more like" Dave. Thank you for helping those with disabilities to be "more like" themselves. And thank you for helping me to be "more like" me. Bye-bye bubble. Bye-bye waiting. Like Dave said, we’ve “waited long enough.”
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If you ever want to discuss this or any other issues related to grief, loss, or how to heal, please contact me anytime at 678-653-5513 or firstname.lastname@example.org.