Birthdays and funerals

A couple of days ago I went to a funeral with Nettie (GSL's CEO). The funeral was for the grandmother of the first client (FC) who came to live with GSL. We now have fifteen, from the ages of 10years right through to young adulthood across nine houses. Some live alone and some share. In 2016 we very excitedly purchased a four-bedroom house with a half room as a study with the idea of operating a supported share house. Do you remember back to the days when you first moved out from your family home into a share house? All the relationships, the social life, the company, the trials, the tribulations. Yep that's this house.

For a period of time the client I was watching delivering the eulogy he'd written about his grandmother, had lived at this house. He's now on his own. He's a very social person, as evidenced by his participation in this ceremony alongside his family, greeting and thanking people for coming to his grandmother's funeral. He needs his own time though. At home he spends most of his time in his bedroom, alone.

From behind, I watched him sitting alongside his family in the front row through the ceremony. There was no doubt he could sit quietly for the duration. At some point I smiled to myself remembering the group gathering he attended when he was younger. He'd stood up unexpectedly in the middle of the meeting and started yelling at everyone in the crowd. On that day he'd had an early departure; not today though. His parents and family have wrapped around him for all his life and instilled their family values and expectations. He knew to sit quietly.

Through his teen years, hormones got him. He became that teenage child that no parent recognises. They were difficult years. They were the years that the family reached out for support and we were fortunate to be the ones they chose. As an organisation we were young and immature when all this happened, but I am so glad we pushed ourselves, so we could respond to this family at their time of need.

In those early days, when we were trying to get supported independent living up and going, Rudolf did a lot of the shifts. We just simply didn't have enough support workers, so alongside teaching at Hub and leading holiday programs, Rudolf did support shifts and sleep-overs. It was Rudolf who turned up as planned that Saturday morning to pick up FC from home, and brought him to live with GSL. At that point in his life FC was angry and difficult to live with. He was angry for no other reason than being a teenager who wanted to fit in and felt rejected because of his disability.

We have shared a long history with FC and his family. We have laughed, shared deeply personal details and, on occasions, disagreed. The message from his mother providing details of the funeral was:

[FC's Grandfather] has said that GSL are very welcome to attend the funeral, particularly members of staff who may have known [grandmother].
Thank you again to [FC]'s GSL family for your support at this time.

FC has a very close family and for all the years he has lived with us, they have welcomed us as part of their family. It's easy to join in the good times; the birthdays and celebrations. It's different for the sad times. In the depths of his grief, FC's grandfather extended a welcome. I have no words to express the mixed pride, warmth, acceptance, gratitude and generosity I feel in response.

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