Thursday, July 3, 2008

Some kind of goodbye

I lost a friend this week. I had known her a little over a year; she was a private person, so I’ll not be giving her name or identifying information. She died in an accident early this week.

Some friends become important because of things we have in common. I met this woman because of something we had in common—Asperger syndrome. She had contacted me at the suggestion of a mutual friend, hoping I could direct her to a group for adults. When I couldn’t, we decided to form one. It took a long time to put the plan into action, but we did it. In the meantime, we met in coffee shops to discuss autism and our lives in general.

Through these meetings, I became aware of how much she and I didn’t have in common, the ways we differed. There were a lot. She had little interest in advocacy, at least the way I was used to using the term. She was not a reader of Autism Hub and had never heard of Neurodiversity. She was interested in biomedical interventions.

My friend had been in a work-related accident a few years earlier. This was something which seriously affected her health for the rest of her life; she was sure that she would not have been involved if she had been more adept at interpreting the subtext of language and behaviors going on around her. Knowing the full story, I believe she is correct in this. She suffered the consequences of the unethical actions of others. She knew this, too, but I’m not sure she ever got past blaming herself or her disability.

I advocate for societal interventions for many reasons. One of them isn’t that I think autistic people have no need of personal interventions. My friend worked hard to increase her social understanding and to be a productive citizen. She took self defense and learned to stand up to bullies. She shared information and resources freely with others who might benefit. She listened to people no one had ever listened to before. She listened with empathy.

Quickly, she became the emotional center of our group, offering acceptance and the wealth of her experience. I was enriched by caring for someone whose views I found so often in opposition to mine. I never stopped arguing my own position that the changes that needed to occur were not in our neurology. She never stopped talking about vitamins and supplements. We managed to get along.

In the days following her death, I obsessed, in unsurprising fashion, about the parrot she’d left behind. She’d had a beautiful African Grey, a bird she had tutored in two languages. Who would care for him, that was all I could think about for awhile. It was a way of grieving, different from some, but no worse. When I knew the parrot was okay, only then, I was able to turn my attention to the person I had known, to register that loss, to start the process of goodbye.


  1. Thanks for sharing about her here. True friends know how to argue and keep the conversation going....

  2. I'm sorry for your loss ... and glad you're able to grieve in your own way. A colleague's 23 year old son was just killed in a traffic accident on Monday. These losses have a way of putting 'life' in perspective and lead us to reexamine our priorities.
    Hugs and blessings,

  3. Oh, Bev. I am so sorry for your loss. Friends are so special. Hugs.

  4. So sorry for your loss, Bev. And I'm glad her parrot has found a new home.

  5. I'm sorry to hear about the death of your friend. I can relate to worrying about the pet. I'm glad to hear her bird found a new home.

  6. Caring for the living pet before remembering about a dead human is logical. After all, dead people don't need anything, unlike living pets. There's nothing wrong with it.

  7. *hugs* I am so sorry for your loss. I will pray for you.

  8. Also the one thing you could do for her was to worry about the parrot:)

    Though I admit that this sort or prosaic pose has excited a few folks over the years.

  9. Bev, I am sorry for the loss of your friend. Some of my dearest friends are the ones who are quite different from me. We grieve in whatever ways we need to w/out judgment of "wrong" or "right" or "un/acceptable." In the end, what matters is that she touched your life and you touched hers.

    Sending warm thoughts.

  10. I suppose this is the definition of true friendship and fraternal love-that people retain their individuality and we accept them for it.

    Thank you for sharing.


  11. I'm sorry for your loss.

    I kind of wish someone in my area would start a support group for adults with Asperger's. There's only one group for autism, and it's all parents of children with autism. They talk about vaccines, diets, and cures. I felt so out of place there that I never went back a second time.

  12. I am so so sorry. Only a truly great friend would consider the wellbeing of the pet before being able to grieve for her own loss. (I hope if something ever happens to me, my friends care enough to look out for my pets too.)

  13. Oh Bev,

    I left the blogesphere for a few days so I could be fully with Adam and my family. I just turned on today and read this post.

    I'm sorry for your loss. Gosh, it sounds cliche, but I guess that's the catch-all phrase for saying that you are in my thoughts, sincerely.

  14. I'm so sorry.

    Your post about your friend make it so clear to me what a blessing your friendship was. xo

  15. In my cultural tradition (Jewish), the thing to say is "may [your friend's] memory be a blessing". That can become cliche'd, but if you sit and think about it with that literalism that our kind is supposed to be so famous for, it really makes sense. The one manifestation of heaven that the living left behind are guaranteed to be able to experience, is the extent to which someone one cares about who's passed away lives on in one's memory, and is transmitted to the memory of others through the telling of the stories of their life. And it seems to me that your friend did a lot of good, so that there are some really worthwhile stories to be telling. And you've started to do just that in this blog article. ...and also, it's very good that her parrot has found a new home.

  16. A very thoughtful tribute. Sending you my love!

  17. I think I have lost a friend, not because of death, also with Asperger syndrome, because we couldn't handle our differing opinions regarding biomedical interventions.

    With a group advocating for biomedical interventions here in Norway, that is pretty isolated from any contra-arguments like seen in the english-speaking world, they get pretty indoctrinated with blatant misinformation - something that I find difficult not to point out, even though it puts me in arguments.

    I didn't know it before our friendship recently turned hostile, but she had been a member of their mailing list since 2006. She is now got back a porphyrin test from that french lab, Philippe Auguste Laboratorie, saying she was mercury poisoned - which I know is totally bogus, she is however considering chelation and has interest in hearing my opinion.

    I am supposed to respect her opinions, I do try, but when even criticizing misinformation from these groups is considered disrespect... it is hard not to.

    I've written about it at AFF:


  18. EDIT: Has NO interest in hearing my opinion.

  19. One of my friends died about 19 1/2 months ago, and I remember that my first concern had to do with how our mutual friends were taking it. It was my way of handling, I guess. Like your worrying about the parrot.


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