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In Memoriam Alex Spourdalakis: A Video Candlelight Vigil From Natalie and Anthony Palumbo

Vigil candleThere is a candlelight vigil for Alex Spourdalakis at 7pm CDT at St. Cyprian Catholic Church, 2601 Clinton Street, River Grove, IL 60171.  The vigil will be held outside in the garden. For those unable to attend and yet who want to honor and remember Alex's life, we invite you to share this video from our Contributing Editor Natalie Palumbo and her older brother Anthony, who has low verbal autism. 

By Natalie Palumbo



Alex Spourdalakis Video Candlelight Vigil

Tragedy in the Age of Autism

My name is Natalie. I just turned 19, and I am the younger sibling of a 22 year old brother with low verbal autism. I just graduated high school, and will be studying Motion Design at Ringling College of Art and Design in the fall.  It’s my dream major at my dream college. 

When I first heard about the stabbing death of Alex Spourdalakis, I was horrified. The thought that someone would brutally murder 14 year old Alex after he suffered a life of autism, pain, and medical apathy had me at a loss for words. However, my head was filled with overwhelming thoughts.

The questions haunting me most were, "How could this happen? Why was there no compassion for his suffering? Why did his life end so brutally?" 

I have read many tragic stories about mothers taking their lives along with the lives of their children with autism rather than be separated, or continue to live with constant, overwhelming struggle. I weep at the thought that the remaining moments of Alex’s life were filled with such agonizing pain.

I tried to focus on other things, but I could not get the violent images out of my mind. I agonized with the thought that Alex didn’t go peacefully. As Anthony’s only sibling, these stories make me reluctant to trust anybody. I feel Anthony’s vulnerability for him – he is blissfully unaware, so I hurt for both of us. 

To me, one of the most tragic things about this is the inaction of it all. There was no significant attention paid to Alex’s suffering during his life.  Only in his death is Alex recognized for his suffering by major media. If there had been more compassion during his life, this tragedy could have been avoided.  Maybe Alex’s peace would not have had to come with death.  The images of Alex suffering in the hospital should have inspired the medical community to act.  Alex’s suffering should have been the wake-up call, not his tragic death. 

This tragedy made me re-examine my feelings of frustration with my brother. I enjoy him, but his OCD can be maddening, especially when I am working. He can interrupt me with the same question or thought every few minutes for several hours, which will prompt me to yell at him (for the millionth time) to wait for me in his room. The thought of Alex’s neglect and suffering made me question myself. I turned to my mom and asked, “Am I too hard on Anthony?” Her eyes welled up with tears because she knew why I was asking. She answered, “No baby – you are never cruel to your brother. You have never hurt him. He frustrates you, yes -- but you have never harmed him ever in word or action.”

I needed to express my sorrow for Alex. I wanted Anthony to be with me to show my devotion to protect him. I wanted to alarm our community that this tragedy could happen again unless we collectively vow to make the noise major media is slow to make. We need to do this for Alex. His life was too short, too painful, and his death too tragic. Once we blow out our candles, and dry our tears, public outcry must be next. 

Natalie Palumbo is Contributing Editor to Age of Autism.

Comments

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Thank you Natalie and Anthony.

I am sure Alex if he had not been the way he was would have been gratified for the sensitive post above ...

God Bless run free with the angels now Alex..your free now..

Angus

Beautiful and moving video, and your essay hit the nail on the head when you spoke of the inaction that took place during Alex's life. You are a special young lady, Natalie. Thank you for your work on behalf of the autism community.

Thank you Natalie and Anthony, very moving for a boy that never apparently stood a chance, God bless little Alex.

Thank you for this beautiful, moving, articulate essay, and for your wonderful devotion to your brother and to the autism community, and for your talented expression via art and film!

I do want to say that from what I have read, Alex's mother and caretaker had planned to kill him with an overdose of pills, and then kill themselves as well. When his heart continued beating in spite of all the pills they had given him, his mother stabbed him to death. Still a horrendous, terrible crime, but I don't think he was conscious to feel fear, pain, or dismay when he was stabbed.

There is so much that we don't know and may never know. I can only mourn for this tragedy, pray for Alex to rest in peace, and hope for better treatments for people with autism, and recognition of the true causes.

While I juggled cooking bacon, scrambled eggs, pancakes, and GFCF French toast this morning, my son often leaned his face right in front of mine and exclaimed something over and over, and though I accidentally put an egg yolk in the scrambled eggs that was meant for the pancakes, and left one pan on while another was accidentally off, I treasured every moment of our family's happiness and health, never to be taken for granted.

My heart goes out to this family. Alex's cousin wrote a beautiful peace about him for the wake. When his mother and father first got married and had a baby they never envisioned this future. They say that God only gives people what they can handle, but sometimes that doesn't seem to be the case.

Beautiful. Thank you, Natalie.

Maurine

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