I saw someone this past week that I haven’t seen for many many years. His name is Ben (not his real name). Ben is one of the kindest men that I’ve ever met. He has moderate to severe cognitive challenges, along with cerebral palsy, but his heart and spirit isn’t the least bit impaired.
I met Ben in 1986 when his parents brought him for an AAC consultation. He had just gotten his first AAC system (a Touch Talker) and they needed help developing a custom program for him. I immediately connected with Ben. I think that was because we were born 1 day apart. Two years later, Ben moved to a residential and day program 20 miles north of Orlando. I had just started providing AAC services for this program.
I have two powerful memories of Ben. The first was when we went through the process of getting him a new AAC system (a Vanguard). He had a pool of money that was managed by someone outside of the family. This financial manager assured us that she would handle the funding for the Vanguard from his fund. So, we did all the paperwork, put in the order with Prentke Romich Company, and waited for her to pay the bill. And we waited and waited and waited. Eventually, Ben and I got the bad news that the fund was depleted and the manager was under investigation for fraud and embezzlement. I was livid, and didn’t hold my tongue in front of Ben. In my personal journal from that day, I have it recorded that Ben said, “No money. Money all gone. Bad. She do wrong. She say sorry. You mad not more me. Make sick you. Make okay God.” He was telling me that he knew she had taken his money and he knew that it was wrong. But she was sorry. So I shouldn’t be mad anymore for him. And getting mad would make me sick, while God would make everything okay.” I was taught an important spiritual lesson about forgiveness and trust. (And Ben got a new Vanguard within a month.)
My second vivid memory is from when I sat and prayed with him at the hospital when his wife was in intensive care. Ben knew he didn’t need his AAC device for God to hear him pray, but he wanted other people to hear him and be encouraged. I recorded in my journal one of his prayers for his wife when she was in the hospital, which went, “Jesus love Cathy more more more me. You know way good.” I heard it as a prayer of submission, with Ben saying that he knew Jesus loved Cathy much more than he did; and he was submitting to God’s good and perfect will and way.
We had just submitted for funding for an Eco when Ben had his own traumatic health crisis. It arrived while he was still in the ICU, but I got everything set up and hoped for the best. The family wasn’t hopeful, so they came and picked up the Eco and thanked me for my 20+ years of helping Ben.
I lost track of Ben when he was moved out of the area to a specialized hospice center. I assumed he had passed, so when I saw him this past week, I was thrilled. He’s moved into a care facility for the medically fragile, and they were taking a community outing to visit friends at a day program (where I go for 4 hours a week). Using his Eco with my original programming, we had a wonderful reunion. I asked his permission to write this blog about him and asked him what he would want to say to people. He said, “all good all time. God good all time.”
Thank you Ben for your words of encouragement. You have been a gift and teacher to me.