by Laura MacGregor
One of my favourite stories about my son involves a person I never met.
In the warmer weather, Matthew and his primary caregiver, Carol, would routinely ‘walk and roll’ through our neighbourhood. The two were a frequent sight. Indeed when we first visited the home we would eventually purchase to create “Matthew’s Home” fondly called “Little L’Arche” the next-door neighbor knew Matthew and Carol from their frequent rambles.
A few days after Matthew’s death yet another neighbor at the end of our cul-de-sac shared a ‘Matthew and Carol’ story. A few years ago her parents were visiting from Iran, and for the length of their visit her father would spend every afternoon sitting by the window waiting for Carol and Matthew to pass by on their daily walk. Upon seeing them he would run outside and greet the two – in Persian –a language none of us speak. Her father, not speaking a word of English, proceeded to have a brief conversation with Matthew. As later translated by our neighbour, he would say hello to Matthew, wish the two a good walk, comment on the weather, and refer to Matthew as his “Beautiful Flower Boy.”
While I could spend today telling many stories about my son, it is this brief story that, for me, captures the beauty of my son’s life, the example he provided, and his legacy that comes alive in the work of WRFN volunteers.
Matthew didn’t care where you were from, or the colour of your skin. He didn’t care what language you spoke, or whether you spoke at all. Matthew was not impressed by the stuff of the world, such as material items, advanced education, or prestigious titles. What mattered to Matthew was human connection. His gift to the world was an extraordinary ability to facilitate relationships, and to nurture community – because he knew (and yes, I use that word deliberately to describe my son with an intellectual disability) that communities of support and friendship are where we all thrive.
Matthew brought people together and reminded us that we need each other to get through life. He saw the fundamental good in everyone, and in the world as a whole. He reminded us that words were irrelevant in a friendship if we genuinely cared about one another. And he taught us that there was little in life that a healthy dose of friendship, bubbles, and Tinkerbell couldn’t improve.
As it turns out a man I never had the pleasure of meeting captured the essence of my son, My Beautiful Flower Boy, and in turn describes the qualities of the women we will honour today. These women, through their work with families caring for children with disabilities, forge friendships, nurture community, strengthen resilience, share information, and create a world where we can all thrive.
And so, with this volunteer award, I am both honoured and privileged to invite these amazing women to join my Flower Boy in his garden. Matthew’s garden, like our community, continues to get more vibrant and colourful every year.