The kids and I celebrate half birthdays. We don’t do them up like we do a regular birthday but six months after a birthday, we commemorate the day with an extra hug and a half a gluten-free cookie or cupcake (or half a gf-granola bar if there are no desserts in the house). It isn’t a major celebration but a fun one that reminds us to look how far that child’s come from their last birthday. It gives us a chance to dream about how much more growing, learning, and living they’ll get to do before their next birthday comes around, too.
When I glanced at the calendar this week, I remembered that almost six months has gone by. We won’t be celebrating a half birthday this week, but we will remember something else. It’ll be a day of reflection, not of treats, because something incredibly sad happened six months ago.
We lost a writer.
We lost an author.
We lost a powerful voice.
We lost a friend.
Six months ago this week, we lost Dan Olmsted. It’s been a short six months, but it’s also felt like a long six months. We began to create a new routine without him. We began the healing process. We remembered, or are at least trying to remember, to keep going in a forward direction. That’s been hard because there are so many more things I wanted to know from Dan, to read from him, and to ask him.
He and I had been able to get together a few times, for which I’ll always be grateful, but with how busy life got for me, those meet ups weren’t often enough. I’d always been able to send Dan a message though. I’d email him when I’d read something of interest or when I needed to hear a word of encouragement. I hate that I can’t send a quick email and get an even quicker reply back from him now. He was always available to me, as he was to a lot of other parents, and never made me feel like I was a bother.
Available, knowledgeable, and kind. Dan was extremely good at what he did. And I miss him so very much.
Some days, I still can’t believe that he’s gone. I know that a lot of us here still miss him so. In promising to keep his memory alive, I wanted to share something that I’d written after friends and family had gathered to remember Dan, his life, and the work he’d done. I’ve edited it a tad for today’s Sunday post:
"The paper crane.....a compelling symbol for hope, love, honor, and peace."
March 18 – My daughter, Izzy, made this. It's so simple yet so beautiful to me. It's for Dan Olmsted, whose memorial service was today. I asked Izzy if I could take a picture of her holding it when I got back from the funeral home. She said yes. She and my other children were just as saddened as my husband and I were when they learned of Dan's passing.
I got to hear some wonderful stories of my friend and mentor at the service today. As expected, there were tears. But there was also laughter. Oh, the laughter! So many heartfelt memories were shared. My favorite memories of Dan are of when he got to meet up with me and my kids. I'd find a diner for us to meet because I didn't want too fancy of a restaurant in case my kids were loud. Oftentimes, they were! He didn't mind how silly and loud they were though. He didn't mind how distracted and needy they'd get during the meal either. Dan was patient, kind, attentive, and happy. He smiled at their silliness and showed them only love. The kids smiled at Dan and loved him right back.
After the service ended today, I told Dan's family thank you for sharing him with us. I told them that he gave me hope. He gave me courage. More than that, he gave me a platform to share our family's story. Other news sources try to silence parents like me, but not Dan. He welcomed my voice. I love that my pieces followed his Saturday column. His posts were always insightful and so very well written. Saturdays won't be the same since without his contribution.
Dan meant the world to me and always will. I know he meant the world to a lot of people. He took the lead on topics no other journalist would. He encouraged others of us to do the same. I'm so grateful to have had the chance to know him, to work with him, and to now honor him.
Dan, you were a kind and beautiful soul. Never far from my thoughts, you will remain in my heart forever. Peace, my friend. Peace always and forever.
Some people say that time heals all wounds. I don’t think any amount of time can ease or erase all of the sadness one feels when they lose a friend. For those who may still be mourning, my prayers are with you. May we one day find comfort. In the meantime, let us never forget how courageous Dan was. He lent his knowledge when he didn’t have to. He spoke up when he didn’t have to. He gave us his time when he didn’t have to. I wish I had had more of it, but I’ll always be grateful for the time Dan gave to me.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.