Saywatanayo (Shawshank Redemption)
To my friend Josh,
I’m sure heaven is a brighter place today, but our world feels pretty empty. We did not have time to say goodbye. Or time to tell you all of the things that come to mind today or how thankful we were to know you, to have you in our lives, to learn from you, to see you smile.
You had learned all of the lessons life had to teach. You shared your knowledge, spread your joy and extended your hand to all of us. You made our lives better. You made us better.
For the last two years, you participated in the expert panel during PPMD’s annual conference. In your blog, you wrote –“ the main theme of our talk was that life does not end with a wheelchair. We have all been able to accomplish much in our lives, despite being in chairs”. You were living proof that a wheelchair should not be considered an obstacle to success.
Later you blogged “I have no choice except to live to the best of my ability. After all, I could be around for a while and it would be a shame to waste even a second. To quote that noted philosopher, Ferris Bueller, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." You inspired us to live today and everyday.
We leaned on you for your insight, for your courage, for your wisdom and for your humor. Just after Scott Sands’ received his pacemaker/defibrillator implant, you wrote “may your heartbeats be regular and your shocks be few”. Josh, you had first hand experience with this device, but your message hits home.
Like you Josh, I love the movie “The Shawshank Redemption”. In the film, Andy Dufresne and Ellis “Red” Redding were prisoners at Shawshank Prison. Andy and Red met while serving time for 1st degree murder. While in prison Andy believed his life would not end in Shawshank prison. He invited Red to be his business partner after serving his time. Red had little hope of freedom. Andy escaped from Shawshank. Sometime later, Red was granted parole.
You were working on your thesis at the time and wrote: “Even when I have the time, my energy often betrays me, thanks to my weak DMD heart and the medications I take to sustain it. After getting shocked 18 times by my internal defibrillator on one very scary night in July, I had to make sure that I did not allow myself to get too stressed out! So I tried to work at a slower pace, taking frequent breaks. It was highly frustrating, but I knew that (like Red, when he found the note Andy left for him) if you had come this far, you could go just a little bit further.
Dear Red, If you are reading this, you have gotten out and if you had come this far, maybe you are willing to come just a little bit further. You remember the name of the town don’t you? (Saywatanayo)
I could use a good man to help me get my project on wheels. I’ll keep an eye out for you and the chessboard ready. Remember Red. Hope is a good thing, maybe the best things and no good thing ever dies. I will be hoping that this letter finds you and finds you well. Your friend, Andy
And on November 9, you added the finishing touches to your masters thesis and submitted it. You were tired and wrote “if only for a moment, I was able recapture some of my old magic, pushing myself every time I wanted to take a break. We'll see what happens, but it sure was nice to visit with my old self and to know he is still within me and I can channel him from time to time! Like Red, you were able to go just a bit further.
And now you are gone.
Josh, I like the words of Leonard Cohen. We are all
“passing through, passing through,
sometimes happy, sometimes blue.
(but very) Glad that we ran into you”
Josh, Hope IS a good thing and no good thing ever dies. If we could photograph HOPE, it would be your smiling face. I am hoping this note reaches you and finds you well. You are loved.
Your friend, Pat