I have had the privilege of working with an amazing family for the past three years. Their second son was my student, Kyle, and I have been enriched by the experience of having known him. Sadly, he passed away on Monday, May 23, after having celebrated his 10th birthday in April. It was sudden, and unexpected, and completely and utterly devastating for all who knew him. I attended a service for him and the love for Kyle and his family was palpable and solid; an immense presence in the room.
The death of a child is unspeakable, and grief is magnified. So, it was amazing to me that so many people found the strength to stand up and talk about Kyle, not just to share their memories, but to share how much their lives were enriched for having known him.
Kyle had multiple special needs, and was not able to move much, or speak. However, he could speak volumes with his expressive brown eyes and his amazing smile that lit the world. He accomplished much in his too few years, in bringing together hundreds of people and gracing them with his love and spirit. I am not the same person I was before meeting him. None of us who had the pleasure will be.
Kyle taught everyone who met him that a person with special needs is a person first. He had limitations in what he could do, but there were no limitations on how he could interact with people and bring out the best in them. There is no single person with eyes and a heart who could receive one of Kyle's smiles and not feel lighter and happier because of it. There is no person who has met Kyle, who didn't want to do better, be better.
I have to thank his mother, profoundly, and from the bottom of my heart. I did not have much experience with a child with such needs before, but I learned through her that he was capable of learning and growing like any other child. The changes were smaller and harder to see, but if you knew how to look, they were there in an amazing array. We cheered when he first swam across the pool on his back, and marveled at his strength and determination when he decided to reach up and grab on to the gymnastic rings for the first time. We laughed at his mischievous nature when he dropped things off his tray just to watch someone have to pick it up. We respected his bravery during recover from major surgery, and loved his unabashed and noisy exuberance during bumpy joyrides in his wheelchair.
Kyle is now free to run, climb, laugh and talk, in a pain-free spirit body. Thank-you Kyle; your brief life on Earth has left it a better place.