Thursday, 22 March 2018

Keeping in touch

Ali - 25 years ago - in March 1993
Ali was very good at keeping in touch with friends, whether by postal mail, email or by phone. Typically, while resting for an hour or so from about 6pm after work, she would catch up with friends. By contrast, I'm terrible at keeping in touch with friends, and I apologize to many of Ali's friends (and mine) with whom I have been out of contact for far too long.  Some days, however, it is fitting to make contact, even if only through this blog, and even if not much is said. 

Monday, 8 January 2018

Ali's birthday

Ali's 39th birthday in 1994

The past couple of years recalled Ali's birthdays in India.  Most of her birthdays, however were spent at home, and Ali had the 'usual' birthday cake - which I made from the only recipe for cakes Ali knew.  It was a simple victoria sponge, which would either be plain (like the one above) or chocolate.  For several years we had a faulty oven which didn't close properly, so the sponges rose on one side and not the other.  By matching up the uneven sides the surface ended up being flat!

Today would have been Ali's 63rd birthday.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

The fourth anniversary....

Ali in Montreal, Canada, Dec 2007
Throughout the year, I am conscious of various anniversaries occurring - 10 years since I did something with Ali or 25 years since we went somewhere, and so on.  Sometimes I thought of writing a post about the various anniversaries, but then decided to remember them privately. The fourth anniversary of Ali's death, however, requires a post.

On this day ten years ago, 3 December 2007,  Ali and I left Toronto, Canada, where she had spoken at an international symposium of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.  As we left Toronto it began to snow and conditions became treacherous as we drove to Ottawa, and then on to Montreal before heading back to Toronto and Niagara Falls.  

If I were to think hard I would recall that the trip had its share of difficulties for Ali.  Travelling was always difficult for her; she would have pain and nausea, and get tired easily. This trip was so cold too!  But it is hard to  remember those difficulties now.  All I can recall is the joy of being with Ali and the delight she would take in the people she met and the places she visited.  She delighted too in the foolhardiness of trying to get around cities built up with snow which were increasingly difficult for a wheelchair user to navigate.

There are many serious things to be written about Ali - but when I think of her it is the silly things and the joy that come to mind first.  Inevitably, recent weeks and days have brought to mind those momentous weeks and days of four years ago.   Ali died as she lived,  and it seems fitting to remember her life today and not only her death.  May her life continue to inspire others to live well and to seek the eternal truths and the eternal life that she sought.

Addressing the international symposium on euthanasia, Toronto Dec. 2007
With her good friend Brad Mattes of Life Issues Institute
Yes, that's a large Christmas tree!
Ottawa. Where did we park the car?
At Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral,  Montreal
An icy Niagara Falls
Ali with a friend.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Wimbledon 1992

Ali at Wmbledon on 22 June 1992, with her bear Julian.

On this day 25 years ago, 22 June 1992,  Ali and I were at Wimbledon to see the tennis.  Ali had already been to Wimbledon several times, but it was my first time.

One of Ali's bears, called Julian, spent 50 weeks of the year sitting quietly on top of a bookcase in Ali's bedroom.  However, during Wimbledon fortnight he was always to be found in the living room, sitting in front of the television, so that he could watch all the tennis (!)  I cannot recall how he developed such a love of the game, but it was natural that he came with us - in 1992 and in subsequent years -  when we went to Wimbledon.

On that first occasion, we had only a ground pass which enabled us to see matches on the outside courts.   When I discovered that Ali's favourite player, Boris Becker, was about to play on centre court, I somehow managed to talk our way onto that court to see him play.

Ali was pleased to have a ring-side seat to watch Boris....

Ali (back of head, on left) watching Boris Becker
Boris Becker on centre court

.....and also very happy to meet him afterwards:
Ali with Boris

Of course, when considering whether Julian or Boris should get top billing here, it was easily game, set and match to the bear!

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Birthday remembrances

8 January 2002
Ali's birthday 15 years ago on which she was "well and truly garlanded!"
Today is the 62nd anniversary of Ali's birth.  When I think back on her birthdays I recall, above all, the birthdays she celebrated in India. We were there for two weeks each January between 2001 and 2006, visiting the projects for disabled children funded by the charity Ali had founded. Sometimes we were there just after her birthday and on those occasions we celebrated while we were there, but on a slightly later date.

On the back of the photo shown above Ali wrote the date and "Ali well and truly garlanded!"  If the truth be told she found all the attention given to her on her birthday a little excessive and embarrassing, but she knew that the children greatly enjoyed the festivities and so she was happy for their sake. There was a large 'function' in her honour on the night of her birthday, at which the children would perform songs, dances and plays that they had spent weeks and months rehearsing.  It was an evening of high spirits and enjoyment for them.

8 Jan 2002: A group dance by some of the girls
8 Jan 2002:  Boys who cannot walk dancing while seated
8 Jan 2002: A drama performed by some of the girls

Above all, Ali was happy just to be with the children, whom she loved with a mother's passion, and who called her "Mummy Alison."

8 Jan 2002:  Ali with many of the children

Jan 2002:  Ali with Lakshmi, Nagalakshmi and Anuradha

Jan 2002:  Ali with Santhi and Parvati

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Three years on Ali's message "continues to resonate"

Drawing attention to Ali on the third anniversary of her death,  the leading pro-life media site LifeSiteNews says that Ali's message "continues to resonate after her suffering and death."  


Disability, pro-life advocate's message continues to resonate after her suffering and death

By Lisa Bourne  

December 2, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Suffering has value, meaning and a purpose, and despite the world’s attitude that it should be avoided and eliminated, suffering is actually good news for Christians.

This is the message that pro-life and disability advocate Colin Harte shared on the third anniversary of the death of a beloved disability rights and pro-life advocate, who herself suffered greatly throughout her life.
Alison Davis was a UK woman born with spina bifida who later developed other conditions such as osteoporosis, arthritis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. She lived daily with extreme pain, and for many years she wanted to "end it all."
But instead she turned from being pro-abortion to pro-life. And she was someone who had tried to end her own life at one point but would go on to become a most powerful advocate against assisted suicide and euthanasia, for 30 years representing the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children’s (SPUC) disability rights group “No Less Human” in the UK.
Davis advocated that individuals with disabilities “deserve the same kind of help routinely given to those who do not have a physical condition but who feel suicidal.”
“She turned from being an atheist to being a Catholic,” Harte said, “and the most extraordinary Catholic at that. One who loved God and human beings intensely.”
Harte was Davis’ caregiver and constant companion from 1987 until her death. The two established a charity for children with disabilities in need of care and support in South India in 1995. He believes Davis will be recognized by the Church one day for her holiness and sanctity.
Davis passed away December 3, 2013, and those close to her believe she still has things to tell the world and the Church about suffering.
“Somebody who the world rejects I think is a paradox how she showed us the way to live,” Harte told LifeSiteNews. “She showed us the way to live, to love, have faith, and above all I think she is a witness in her life to the infinite value of every single human being.”
Davis gave witness to the fact that the child in the womb, no matter how profoundly disabled, how long they had to live, or how they were conceived, has an infinite value, he said, “That’s something that she taught. And through her witness to life at the end of life, she’s a witness to the value of suffering.”  
“She’s certainly somebody who, is the most extraordinary person I ever knew,” Harte continued.
Euthanasia Prevention Coalition Executive Director Alex Schadenberg echoed Harte’s thoughts on Davis.
“She was an amazing woman,” Schadenberg told LifeSiteNews. “She was one of those people in life that you fall in love with.”
“She was a profound woman to say the least,” Schadenberg recalled. “Her message broke through. You might not always agree with what she said, yet she could speak to anyone and have a incredible effect.” 
“She was truly a fabulous woman. She's someone I miss,” he added. “She gave everyone around her great hope because she was always so kind.”
Davis had strayed from her faith in God while studying sociology in college, writing on this time in her life, “It was largely because I wanted to live a lifestyle I knew was incompatible with the Christian faith.”
She was married for 10 years, during which she “tried very hard to find happiness without God,” but the marriage failed.
While in college, Davis had strongly supported the “right to choose” abortion, but that changed after she read about the case of a baby girl named Louise, born in 1979 with the same disabilities as hers and who was deliberately starved and dehydrated to death at a UK hospital. The case, which received worldwide coverage, shocked her greatly, Davis’ obituary in the Catholic Herald stated after her death.
Two years later, she had written an op-ed published in the Guardian condemning the killing of disabled newborns, prompting SPUC to contact her with the argument that killing newborns with disabilities was tied to killing the unborn. Davis did not accept the contention at first, but eventually became pro-life and began working for “No Less Human” full time in 1983.

Her suicide attempts occurred in the years that followed the end of her marriage and she encountered other personal difficulties. It was then that she also began to seek peace through God.
A pilgrimage to Lourdes helped her to understand that she and the others there who were ill and suffering were very much loved by God in their suffering,
In 1987, she met Harte, who worked for SPUC and eventually became her caregiver for the rest of her life. Harte thought he’d be with her for a few months, as it didn’t seem she had longer than that to live, but Davis lived for another 24-plus years.
Christians are in danger of adopting the world’s attitude on suffering, Harte told LifeSiteNews. But even though it’s difficult, he said, suffering is something we should rejoice over, and this is the lesson that Davis’ life still brings.
“I think we’ve lost sight of the meaning of suffering, the purpose of suffering, and the great dignity of suffering,” Harte stated.
Davis experienced great physical, social, emotional, mental, and spiritual suffering, “And yet she could say as she did, that suffering with Christ was not merely a privilege, but the greatest privilege possible in this world.”
“The fact that she suffered so intensely could say it and believe it with the utmost sincerity and authenticity is a message we have to hear and try to understand and then incorporate into our lives,” he said.
“For Alison, the time that she heard about offering up suffering became for her a source of joy. It made sense to her sufferings,” Harte continued.
Schadenberg concurred here with Harte as well.
“She was in chronic pain all of the time and yet she was always a joy to be around,” he said. “That to me was an incredible gift to be around.”
“Instead of focusing on her pain or on her suffering,” Schadenberg stated, “she focused on others, and that gave her joy.”
Harte pointed out that so many think human life is just about experience, failing to understand the human person in terms of self-giving.
“But, fundamentally we are made to love,” he said, “made in the image of God who is love.”
Jesus Christ showed us this through his example, Harte said, coming to reveal the Father, and in doing so, leaving the image of himself on the cross — himself suffering.
“The world hates suffering,” Harte explained. “It hates it so much, it says, “If you suffer, you’re better off dead; if you suffer, let’s hasten death; let’s do anything we can to avoid suffering.”
“It hates suffering,” Harte continued, “and yet for the Christian, it’s good news.”
“Suffering’s not something that’s tangential to Christianity,” he told LifeSiteNews. “It’s at the heart of it, and it should be at the heart of lives.”
Davis once stated, “If euthanasia had been legal, I would certainly have requested it and I wouldn’t be here now.”
Although she made several serious attempts at suicide, she was saved by the intervention of friends, later changing her mind and recognizing the danger of euthanasia being legal and available to someone struggling as she did.
“I’ll always be grateful to the friends who saved my life, though I wasn’t at the time,” Davis had said of the experience. “And I’m especially thankful there was no possibility of persuading my doctors to legally help me die.”
Her legacy remains as living example of how someone can suffer greatly, be regarded with rejection by society, and still exemplify human dignity, Christ’s love, and His desire for us to be with Him in this life and beyond.
“We are not made simply for the here and now, we are made for eternity and life with God,” Harte said, “and if we don’t take aboard the message of love, if we don’t live a life of love, if we don’t live the love that hurts, if we don’t suffer, then are we prepared for eternity with God?