I spent two and half years working at Center for Independent Futures. It’s an amazing organization that supports people with disabilities in living independently. Every week for two and a half years I spent several hours a week helping a man named Steve with independent living skills. Steve was legally blind and had an awesome guide dog named Sarah. He also had many other unfortunate health issues. As Steve and I cooked together, went through mail together, practiced ordering items online and going to the grocery store, we became good friends. He often had me read him daily devotionals from his Native American spirituality book or take a break to play a game of backgammon. We had fun conquering new recipes from scratch, including mu shoo wraps and gumbo. Even after I stopped working at CIF, I would go over to visit Steve every couple of months. We’d catch up and play a game of backgammon, of course.
In early February, Steve had a stroke and passed away quite unexpectedly. Although Steve had many health problems, he accomplished more than anyone could have imagined. He was a talented musician and photographer. And, he lived courageously on his own and for many years beyond what his ailments would have predicted. Though many people described him as a grumpy old man, I found him to be great company and a loyal friend. Our whole family will miss him. He was so kind to think of each of us and to call and check on us from time to time.
It’s amazing how much one person’s life influences another. So many things remind me of Steve – foods I cook regularly, his reference to “parking gods,” wheat thins, Christmas tree decorating, guide dogs, Starbucks. Steve was one of those people who was not intimidating. He considered me an expert on cooking and he treated me as an equal. I always felt able to be myself around him, and that was a gift. I am so thankful that I knew him, and I will miss him very much.
Goodbye, my friend Steve, you were loved by many and you inspired more than you ever knew.