Praying for a family I#039;ve never met

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 3, 2003

Nancy Blackmon

I don't know Bill and Jae Davis, but this week I am praying for them as they prepare to say a final farewell to each other. Their story has touched the lives of so many of us who are parents of autistic children.

The couple lives in Pennsylvania with their nine-year-old autistic son and their 14-year old daughter. For years these two people have been tireless advocates for those who live with autism.

Parent's Magazine had a story about them and Bill has written the books "Breaking Autism's Barriers" and "Dangerous Encounters." He made the video "Encountering Autism" and designed the Safety Sticker kit. He has also spoken across the nation.

Bill who sports a collection of tattoos, including one on his chest that says "autism" with the puzzle ribbon that is an autism symbol above the word, spends much of his time working to raise awareness about autism.

Jae's dedicated her life to advocating for her son, Chris, and for others with autism. She has developed programs that helped thousands.

On a personal level, this is an amazing couple. Their love for each other and for their children touches everyone who meets them according to friends who know them well. They have been married for 25 years, but still seem like a couple of high school kids who just fell in love.

That makes what is happening to them even sadder and those of us who know their story feel that sadness.

Jae was diagnosed with cancer a few months ago. They prayed for a miracle but were finally told that she had only a few months to live. This week those months are coming done to days and hours.

In September, the couple renewed their wedding vows and celebrated an early Christmas with their family because they knew it might be their last opportunity.

Bill Davis wrote these words about his wife long before the cancer diagnosis.

"I reached over the other night and touched my wife, romantically - she was snoring - so I went to the kitchen table, muttering.

I poured some water and began to look over my wife's collection of things strewn about the table - programming, data sheets, therapists' schedules, a film she made for our IEP, dozens of empty Kirkman bottles to order.

I looked up at her again; she was breathing so hard, she was so tired, so spent, and I realized that this was the most dedicated, strongest, brightest and most sensual woman I had ever laid eyes on and I silently renewed our vows at the kitchen table in the


I stepped lightly back to bed and lovingly held my wife - and fell to sleep satisfied."

I can't imagine the pain of losing your mate. As the parent of an autistic child I don't know how you explain what is happening to a child who has a difficult time with communication.

Bill is an Unlocking Autism representative for his state. I am one for Alabama and on Monday the UA reps read this e-mail from Bill.

"On a very sad note, my wife has been given less than a week to live. I am losing my beautiful girl. Thanks to all of you for your help and prayers. My boy had a very successful picture day in school. It was very hard for him. As we were hugging, he looked up smiling and shouted "I did it!!!" That success was a gift from Mom. That school picture will bring wonderful memories. God Bless the Moms. God Bless my

wife. Lovingly - Bill Davis"

This morning I opened my daughter's backpack and found her school picture. As I looked at her smiling face, I thought about the Davis family and I gave my child an extra hug.

Another advocate for children, Fred Rogers, shared a wish in a speech he gave once. He understood that life is filled with good times and difficult ones. His wish was that when we come to one of life's endings, we are able to see past it to a new beginning.

That is my prayer for the Davis family as they face one of life's endings.