by Whitney Lyons

Hello, My name is Whitney Lyons and I would like to share my journey of grief. I am a 37 year old woman with Cerebral Palsy and Mental Illnesses living in my first accessible apartment which is surrounded by elderly people. I was totally shocked by elders' reaction towards me when I suddenly lost my unique Dad of five years. You will understand why I think he is special as you read this true story.

I was given up by my biological parents at birth and placed in a foster home at age two where I was continuously abused until seventeen years old. When someone died, the foster children were badly scolded for showing emotions. I was glad when I was kicked out for telling my Social Worker the situation. I was then placed in a facility for Mentally Retarded adults.

The facility was the only place for a person like me at the time. I was abused by males there too. I moved into my first apartment at twenty eight, but staying here didn't look promising. The Manager, her husband, and elderly residents tried to kick me out for being a young disabled person. This added salt to my many wounds. When the Manager announced that she would be going to another facility, I had mixed emotions. My opinion of people wasn't very good because their mistreatment caused my Mental Illnesses such as: Anorexia, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, and Major Depression.

The day that the replacement Manager showed up at my door I was in the midst of enjoying french fries. What I remembered most was the sense of humor she has. As she read my communication device, her laughter instantly captured my attention. Though the fear of being kicked out continued to lurk deep in my bloody soul. Everytime I was around her I had a Panic Attack. The next week my refrigerator quit. As I approached her office I thought, "She is going to get angry." Instead of becoming angry, she helped transfer my food to the lobby refrigerator. I decided to write her a note about myself and that evening we sat outside talking.

I tried not becoming attached to her, but I'm glad I did because today she's my Mother. I describe her personality as this: hilarious, serious, intelligent, caring, a natural Mama, over-achiever, strong, a healer, and a soft touch once she allows you into her soul. She plays a big part in helping me heal from the abuse. I met her significant other a few weeks later after he almost died from a kidney infection.

My first close encounter with him was when Mom trusted me to walk him to the pond. He promised me that if I learned to use my hands more efficiently he'd buy me a puppet. He kept his promise and bought me a monkey for my birthday which brought my imagination to life. Our relationship became Father/Daughter after I heard his laughter for the first time. Dad was a man who invented better lives including mine by just being himself. He loved animals, kids, my Mother, teaching, boxing, baking bread, skating which he won a medal for, learning, nature, teasing, and laughter. He loved to chase me with the lawnmower and spray my bare feet with the garden hose. Also hiding from me just to see my expression. My main learning and playing spot was in the yard with my Father.

He also helped me overcome my Eating Disorder by reminding me of dinnertime and teaching me correct nutrient ion. I discovered that one of the joys a Daughter gets is making her Father proud. That type of joy is unexplainable. Today, I appreciate life because of him. It was like my new parents erased my life and rewrote it. One important thing that my Daddy taught me was that there is a better place than Earth. On February 10th 1998 he suddenly went to this place.

I awoke like any other day except for a strange feeling. I heard my Daddy say his cheerful hello as he passed by my apartment. I went to see my Mother complaining of a headache. The next thing that I remember is hearing fast footsteps and sirens. I intuitively knew it was my Daddy who needed the ambulance. I tried fooling myself thinking he would be ok, but in back of my heart I knew he wouldn't be home. At approximately one thirty my Mother and her family returned without my Father. My supposedly older sister informed me that Daddy died. I remember the constant scream which hurt my ears and being left alone which made me realize that I really didn't have a family. My best friend, Barb came over to help me. (Thank goodness for friends.)

The next afternoon, I ran into an elderly person and her exact words were, "You have to keep eating so your Mom won't worry about you." Another person informed me that I needed anti-depressants to control my moods!!! The elderly people sent someone to my door because I was crying too loud. This made me feel as though I was being punished again for emotions. The thing that hurt me most was everyone who lived here consoled my Mother and neglected my feelings. This provoked anger like I have never experienced. When my Mother tried to comfort me, someone stepped in to distract her. An elderly man meanly said, "She favors Whitney" I was even was accused of being anti-social and scolded for not smiling during this time. My Mother even said, "You've endured far worse than this." I couldn't believe my ears, but then realized that she was grieving too.

My Mother returned to work the next week and shortly looked for another Maintenance person. "This business must go on" she said. Half of me comprehended this and the other half didn't want anyone replacing my Daddy. Despite her efforts to convince me that Dad wasn't this job, my heart broke everytime a man applied for the job. I sobbed endlessly while begging for my dad back. At one point, I actually thought that my Mother hid him in the office closet. To complicate matters, the Maintenance man that tried to kick me out trained the new one. I was proud of my deep anger towards this creep because it meant I finally realized that I don't deserve abuse.

My grief worsened to the point where I stopped eating and began physically harming myself. I began thinking of ways to kill myself to be with Dad. Such as, rolling down a flight of stairs, taking pills, going out in traffic, rolling my wheelchair in a pond, and cutting my wrist. I remember this uncontrollable urge to beat the Paramedics up for not saving Dad. Everything inside me wanted to give up.

Through this I'm closer to Mom and Barb now. We tell one another that we love each other because we've learned that life has no guarantees I'm here to tell you that the death of a loved one makes people grow up quickly.

I have begun to heal by writing, reading, allowing myself to cry, socializing with my best friends, buying myself roses, redecorating my home, drawing, painting, seeking beautiful sunsets, reaching for safe hugs, playing in the shower, dancing, getting away from elderly people who constantly tell me their troubles, making silly faces at Mom or my favorite attendant, and listening to the sounds of nature. When I have Panic Attacks due to Paramedics coming to help someone, I quickly remove myself from the scene by taking walks. These activities are stress reducing which enhances my enjoyment of life. My Father was the most important person in my life other than his wife. I shall carry his song wherever I go.


Whitney Lyons


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