Last week, Mom and I were watching the nightly news. One of the stories was on a house fire that had occurred a few hours earlier. It was like any other house fire story… until the word “autistic” was spoken. That’s when it began to hit one of my sensitive spots.
In the fire, one young man passed away. He was autistic.
He was the son of my cousin. His name is Moana.
I was just a teenager when Moana was born and when he was diagnosed with autism. I didn’t know much about autism back then (and little more now, so I apologize for any missteps here), but I did love him even though I didn’t know how to show it. I never told anyone really, but I enjoyed seeing him at family gatherings.
I admired his mother, Heather; she loved him wonderfully, through Moana’s struggles and her own.
Over the years, I have thought of Heather and Moana every so often. I would mention them in my prayers. I didn’t know how to support them, but I could at least say a prayer.
My family hadn’t seen much of them in the last few years. Life goes on, and I suppose that (I’ll answer for myself), I was less concerned after Heather married and they added to their family a daughter. I continued to say a prayer for them whenever I thought of them, but I'll confess that they had come to my mind less often in the last few years.
Well, there’s nothing I can really do now but to honor Moana with a fond memory of interacting with him.
We were at Aunty’s house for a Christmas visit; Moana was her grandson. I think Moana was about 7 or 8 at the time. Back then, he liked to make noises and walk/ stomp around.
Then Moana stomped on my foot as he passed by. Next, he plopped himself in my lap. Even at that young age, Moana was solidly built. Heather apologized, but I was okay with him and I wasn’t hurt at all. Later on, as I sat on the couch in better safety, Moana plopped down on the couch, right next to me.
I’ve never told anyone before, I probably couldn’t have verbalized it, but I was… deeply touched that Moana would choose to be next to me, in a way. In his way.
And I loved seeing how Heather and Moana connected well with each other.
At this time, all I know to ask for are your prayers for Heather, her family, and Moana’s father, as they go through this time.
Thank you for the memories, Moana; rest in Peace.