Monday, November 1, 2010

'To be seen and loved'

When my son Ben was in hospital here earlier this year, Owen Turney (right) came for a visit. I got to know Owen's mom Jennifer through Holland Bloorview years ago, and it was through Jennifer that we met Sallyanne, who works with Ben. Sallyanne spent a lot of time with Ben in hospital. I'll never forget the look of mischief and merriment on Owen's face the morning the two boys surprised me in my office a few months ago. Owen was known for his radiant smile and it was impossible not to smile back. He provided a much-needed dose of joy that day.

Owen died unexpectedly a week ago, early one morning, in his own bed, while sleeping. I'm honoured to share this piece written by Jennifer and read at Owen's funeral. It holds a very important message.

By Jennifer Johannesen

Owen provided light and goodness to all those around him. He graced us with the gift of his smile, his laugh and his wide-eyed gaze. His effect was so profound, it is easy to imagine that he was heaven-sent for the sole purpose of bringing love to us earth-bound mortals.

There is no doubt: his energy was generous and loving and all encompassing – his value to this world is not to be underestimated.

But as I contemplate this thought, the circle of Owen’s life now complete, I know that there is much more to his story than this.

Owen came with immense challenges. Throughout his entire life, he was impossibly – sometimes unbearably – vulnerable and needy. Was he this way solely for our benefit? Surely there are easier ways for a soul to spread love in the world.

I believe he came as he did because he was on his own path of discovery, growth and healing. To only see him as an angel sent from above is to possibly miss the entire point of his life.

Perhaps his brilliant light shone because Michael and I chose to expose him to the world, love him completely, and not hide him away – and this community responded by looking – by holding our son in its compassionate, loving gaze. Maybe this is what he came for – to fulfill his soul’s need to be seen and loved, broken body and all. Perhaps his karmic need to be loved was so great that there was no option but to arrive in the body he did.

If this is the case then the value of Owen’s life is realized not in spite of his disabilities, but because of them.

Owen came to us, in his perfect broken state, seeking unconditional love and care. Your profound expressions of love and compassion, every day of his life, showed him he was worthy – giving him the lightness to smile back and say thank you.

Owen could have remained invisible, as so many like him are. Instead, we loved him deeply – and because of this I believe he returns home fulfilled and whole.

Please read more about Owen at Jennifer's blog: Yes or No.


How beautiful -- and thank you, too, for including the radiant photo of Owen. We will miss him.

I have come to believe that people should only grow strong, happy, and whole together. With these words in mind, "May Owen's infinte light and all encompassing smile shine as a beacon, forever illuminating our path."

Matt Kamaratakis

Thank you for sharing Owen's beautiful spirit. Our thoughts are with his family.