Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Look at a CODA's Deaf Family - Update

Hello to all,

A while back I wrote a post entitled "A Look at a CODA's Deaf Family". In it, I had talked about a Deaf man that I know who was coming to the end of his time with us on Earth. Sadly, I have to say that his time came about two weeks ago. Earlier today was his memorial service, held at the school for the deaf (or one "i" hand tapped twice on top of the other, if you will) where he attended and later worked.

In my previous post I had mentioned what he meant to me as a member of my Deaf family. I won't get into that again, but I do want to talk about the service today. I had the privilege of meeting his Deaf family.

I have to mention first about my own father's passing four years ago. My sister and I had decided to split up the responsibilities of that came along with the process of funeral/ceremonial decisions, notifying everyone, writing the obituary, and seeing our mother was ok, etc etc. I had asked to handle speaking with the funeral director to make the service a little more "Deaf" friendly. One of the things to be done was to have no aisles of chairs in the middle of the viewing room. I did not want my father's Deaf friends to have to look at the back of each others' heads. In an attempt to allow everyone to see what everyone else was signing, we arranged the chairs in a large "U" around the room. It was good for about 40 or 50 people. When people began to arrive, we quickly ended up with far more people than anticipated. Friends came from all over and we had to put chairs in the middle of the room in rows/aisles, anyways. At least we tried, right? What we ended up with was upwards of close to 100 people. Some had to view the service from the other room because we ran out of space!

I say this because at the time, it really impressed upon me what "Deaf family" means. I remembered so many faces of the people I used to see at Deaf Club meetings and get-togethers from my childhood and they were all so wonderful. I also saw many faces of people I had never met before, but whom were great friends with my father at one point in time or another. It really helped me see how much Deaf people cherish each other and how close they all were. That is what a Deaf family is.

With that said let me move onto today. This service was at least twice the size of my father's and held in the school gymnasium. Friends and family gave some touching and personal speeches. There was also a closing prayer conducted by a Deaf Father. That is something I had never seen before. It was such a cool thing to witness. The reception was held in the cafeteria, a slideshow in the meeting room, and the school's museum, something this man had the largest hand in creating, was open for all to view. There was also a video camera setup for people to give their goodbye wishes, share stories, and anything else anyone felt had merit to mention. I saw former teachers and students come today, too. He had reached a lot of people in his time.

And just like any typical get-together in the Deaf Community (with hearing people involved), the Deaf will stay until they are told to leave. The crowd was over half out by the time myself and ELF had left, and nearly all of them were either Deaf, CODAs, or other members of the man's family. And here they all were, his Deaf family. It amazed me to see it yet again, and I cannot explain in any decent amount of words how much it touched me to know that even though most of the Deaf people there were not a part of my Deaf family, the man's wife went out of her way to make me feel like I was part of their's, no matter how small a part it really is.

I guess this is the only way I can explain it. Compared to probably just about everyone else there, I was little more than an acquaintance to this man and his wife. Most of their blood family I had never met or seen until today. I think it's that connection a CODA has or can have with other Deaf people, without even having spent a great deal of time with them, that makes it a Deaf family for each other.

With so little, in relative terms, his life had a significant impact on me. For everyone else there who was much more a part of his Deaf family, I can only imagine how his life impacted them. I have to believe that its value is exponential. Everyone who attended, and everyone who could not but did so in spirit, is a better person because of his impact in our lives. That's the power of Deaf family, and I am honored to have felt its impact again. I love you, man.

Until next time,

R. M.


  1. Thanks for this post R.M. I recently lost my father and the exact thoughts and feelings washed over me during and after his funeral. I think it is quite unique to be a part of a "family" even though you may not even know that particular Deaf person, I always feel at home with them. Same goes for any gathering of Codas, I may not know them but I can always easily strike up a conversation or just start talking to them like I've known them all my life. Not so with the world in general. Anyway, thanks again for a great post and reminding me of the love this "family" gives me even though at times I may feel like I have lost that connection with the passing of my parents.

  2. Thanks for your comment, John. I lost my father about 4 years ago due to a sudden and unforeseen stroke. I know how you feel about the connection. It might be worth your while to somehow find your way into your local Deaf community. It's one of the things that has really helped me out, and I have to admit, if it wasn't for that, my mother might be the only Deaf person I talk to. What it's done for me is it gave me more connections. They aren't and will ever be the same as my the connection with my father, but the mean just as much in many ways, and in some weird way, it keeps me feeling closer to him. You stay strong, fellow CODA.