Wednesday, March 28, 2012
I have been reading with great interest comments about the George Hodgins (murder) and Elizabeth Hodgins (suicide) which recently occurred in Sunnyvale, CA. George was an autistic 22 year old man who was rather severely involved, behaviorally and cognitively. He was non-verbal. Elizabeth, his mother, cared for her son and searched for a day habilitation placement when he aged out of school. Nothing appeared to work out. No supports, no plans, no real assistance...she decided that their lives should end together. It's commonplace to refer to this as a :murder-suicide. This is one story of many which follow the same theme....severely disabled child-loving parent! These stories are legion.
Many people, especially in the ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) community on Facebook, are outraged over the focus which the media has placed on an over-wrought, emotionally depleted care-giver mother. Commentators focused upon the lack of attention given to the killing of a disabled child and the murderous act of the mother. Writers and bloggers believe that yes, there was a paucity of services; yes, the mother was over-wrought and that she should be identified as a perpetrator and murderer. Comments abound that the killing of a disabled child is a heinous action and that it can never allowed to happen again.
Could there be another side to this very tragic story? Is the world so black and white that no other explanations are possible nor plausible? Could, in their dark place, the hidden recesses of the human psyche, there be a place for an act like this to be a act of love? The murder of a severely disabled child is a heinous event if the parent lives, becomes unburdened and is freed from an impossible life without supports. Is the scenario identical when a severely disabled child and a loving, care giving mother leave together? There are no blacks and white, no absolutes and above all there should be no judgements by those who do not know. The dark places in our souls can reveal truths no one wants to hear. So let's explore this further....
My son is totally disabled and a medically complex human person (sorry, Amber). My wife and I alone know his body: how he needs to be fed, how he needs secretions cleared, how his bowels need to be stimulated and retained urine released. We know how he signals pain and how he signals peace. We know how to get him to sleep and when to re-position him. We know how to clear his lungs. We know how to prepare his pureed meals and provide a host of supplements and feed him over an hour's time. We know when he is ill. Doctors depend on us to tell them what is wrong and what needs attention. Left to modern medicine, he would have his g-tube replaced and a trach inserted with regular suctioning. We know how to manually release his spasticity. We know his soul and his body as he is totally dependent upon us.
Our dark place is that he will outlive us and if he does he will be alone. Children/adults like Adam (who is now 26, 14 years post accident) usually have one option: nursing homes, which are cesspools of germs, staffed by some people who are under-paid and blatantly indifferent. Nursing homes for the severely disabled are rank with neglect, with abuse, with indifference and patients are prone to being sexually abused, Placed in a nursing home with people of all ages, many of whom have lost their minds and spirits, is a death sentence. Don't kid yourself!
My dark place is that my son will outlive me. My dark place is that no one else knows him, his body and his spirit; and that few really care...they all have to get on with their lives so they can enjoy their brief stays on this temporal planet. In a nursing home or a residential placement, Adam would die and it would not take long, and even that length of time would be marked by horrific abuse and indifference....yes, that indifference that reduces people to an abstraction. No one really cares about abstractions!
My dark place leads me into the fear that my son will be alone and aloneness is worse than death. He can never be alone, in life nor in death. He has a father and a mother who love and protect him from the indifference and harm of the world. My deepest darkest place is my son's aloneness...he does not deserve that nor will I allow it to happen.
Would you condemn us or judge us if we left this plane together? Would you understand our need to express our love to be together? Would you mock our belief in the beyond? Many people believe that their companion pets will meet them at the rainbow bridge and cross over together. Can we extend that same belief to humans? Would you condemn us as murderers of a disabled person is if we chose to be together at a point in time?
Bloggers and newscasters who are righteous and condemn Elizabeth Hodgins have usually not cared for a severely disabled, medically complex son or daughter and committed their lives to that task. Black and white judgement is very, very easy to come by. It requires no effort nor an ability to "see and hear" that which is not apparent. Judgement of others and their decisions is perhaps the greatest of sins, just behind human indifference. What dark places to you venture to? Our stories are legion!