Jaimie Bliss died December 6, 2013, in Boston. He was 49 years old, and had spent four months on a palliative care unit, where family and volunteers read him the local sports pages. His mother also read him Dr. Seuss, as she had done during his childhood. “Green Eggs and Ham” was his favorite.
He was born after a difficult pregnancy, and didn’t talk until he was six. It took many years to diagnose the details of his brain damage, and without a diagnosis, the state would not fund school or housing placements. But that is not his life story.
His life story is how much his family loved him. His mother administered speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy, his father took him along on work rounds, and they kept a tranquil fish tank in the house that he watched for hours.
Even so, even with all these protective efforts, neighborhood bullies circled — and life, though full of love, was difficult.
When he finally moved to a residential school across the state, he thrived. He medaled in Special Olympics, learned to garden, and ate what he grew. His parents had three older siblings to raise. But they visited every weekend. Every weekend.
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Jaimie was both generous and particular. On trash day, he went up and down the street rearranging rubbish. When a neighbor’s home was damaged in a storm, he brought his lunch and a saw over, and cut their ruined porch into precise four-inch pieces.
He couldn’t read or write, but had a genius for animals whose lives had also been difficult. He father said he could pat a grizzly bear. Once he calmed a biting stallion. He went into the stable alone, and when they emerged together, the horse’s head was on Jaimie’s shoulder.
Seizures began in his twenties and gradually grew uncontrollable, until he could no longer go out for fried clams or ride on the back of motorcycles. “I hate being like this,” he said.
He was hospitalized, then in rehab, then re-hospitalized. By his late forties, medications had stopped working.
He had already given the future some thought, though, and told his parents he wanted to donate his organs after death. The reason, he said, was “to make someone else’s heart happy.”
Did you know Jaimie Bliss? Share your memories in the comments section.