New Ways of Thinking and Revolutionary Common Sense

Disability Is Natural Books and Media

If our hearts and minds are big enough and strong enough to remember what was wonderful about someone who is now dead, can we not do the same for someone who is living?

Kathie Snow

With tears streaming down her face, the mother of a teenaged girl who was killed in a car accident described her daughter to the TV reporter, “Everyone loved her—Suzanne was kind and sweet, she volunteered at the Senior Center, and she made friends with everyone she met . . .” We see or read similar descriptions in the news, as well as in the daily obituary column. And what do all these reports—these memories—have in common? They are always positive!

During the television interview, Suzanne’s mother did not reveal that her daughter made a “D” in math, kept a messy bedroom, had two speeding tickets in the last year, was disrespectful to her father, or any other not-so-positive characteristics. Why? Why do memories of the departed seem to always focus on the positive and not the negative? Because that’s the way we want to remember our loved one, that’s the image we want others to have of her, and because those were the most important characteristics of the person—what we valued the most.

Positive memories are helpful to the living, not the dead. We, the living, focus on the positive—in obituaries and when talking about the dearly departed at wakes and services—to help permanently etch this image in our minds. Days, months, or years later, this image typically overpowers any not-so-flattering or negative remembrances.

What if we applied this practice to the present—today, here and now—to the individuals with disabilities in our lives? How might that change the way we see them? How others see them? How they see themselves?

First, try this little exercise . . . Click here to continue.


Testimonies About the Living, Not Just the Dead